CALGARY — We should find out Tuesday morning if Kaillie Humphries will be able to compete for the United States.
A judge is set to rule if Bobsleigh Canada will have to release her.
The two-time Canadian gold medalist has sued the organization for her release after she filed a harassment suit earlier this year.
She is accusing head coach Todd Hays of misconduct.
Lawyers for Bobsleigh Canada are disputing claims Humphries claims, stating in a Calgary courtroom on Monday that there was no evidence of harassment after a third-party review.
Jazmine Fenlator competes for the Jamaican bobsled team, and previously represented Team USA at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi where she was coached by Todd Hays.
When she was asked about whether she was surprised to learn of the allegations of harassment she was not shocked.
“There’s a very bad culture in bobsled and skeleton across the entire international organization — no matter what nation you’re from,” she said.
“Discrimination, verbal abuse, basically a good ole’ boys club where money runs things or who you know runs things.”
Having experienced firsthand the abuse and discrimination competing in the sport, she says pursuing legal action and speaking out publicly can be extremely daunting financially, mentally and physically.
“To be a strong female and stand up against those allegations and to put your career in your hands rather than people who feel they have power over you is a very difficult thing to do, especially when we are athletes that are amateurs,” she pointed out.
In the statement of claim filed in court, Humphries accuses Hays of verbal and mental abuse during the 2017-2018 season.
It also says that she learned of other open complaints from members of the United States bobsleigh team regarding the physical and verbal abuse of female athletes after she filed hers.
“So when Kaillie came out with her harassment suit and other allegations towards BCS I wasn’t shocked because it’s about time someone did something.”
Coach Todd Hays a ‘ruthless competitor’
While Fenlator is outspoken on the discrimination and abusive culture within the sport, she says her own experience with Hays was positive.
“I worked really closely with Todd on Team USA when he was an athlete and as my head coach.”
She admitted that he is a ruthless competitor and may not be “everyone’s cup of tea.”
“At the end of the day he kept one thing always clear to me and to the athletes he coached on Team USA, he is there to represent Team USA and to bring home medals — he does not care who is on the podium,” she commented.
“His methods of getting that can be gruelling.”
The statement of claim filed by Humphries’ lawyer Jeffrey Rath claims retaliatory measures were taken to prevent her from competing for Canada.
She claims she was not invited to training camps and says that bobsled athlete Kristen Bujnowski was told that if she decided to join Humphries’ team she would “fall out of favour with Hays’ coaches and their Olympic standing would be in question.”
Her lawyers are seeking an immediate court injunction to force Bobsleigh Canada to release her so that she can compete for the USA. In addition, the lawsuit also seeks $15 million in damages for lost income because she was unable to compete due to the harassment.
Social media reaction
Since news of the lawsuit broke, Kaillie Humphries has become a target on social media of critics accusing her of being unpatriotic and a traitor.
Kaillie Humphries' doesn't have national pride. It's about medals, money, media exposure & calling the shots. Egotistical. Bye bye #traitor
— EL (@eleeyvr) September 14, 2019
The online abuse is something that Fenlator knows all too well after she decided to leave the American team to compete for Jamaica.
“When you make that decision it’s very, very hard. I received death threats, that I was a traitor, I had a lot of racist hate mail,” she commented, pointing out that she doesn’t think athletes should be shunned for wanting to leave an “unsafe and discriminatory environment.”
Not all comments have been negative though, Humphries has received a lot of support as well.
Hard to think of many athletes who've been stronger or better Ambassadors for Canada and girls in sport than Kaillie Humphries. I'm sorry she's been put in this position, and hope she gets the resolution, answers, and changes she's looking for.
— Will Murray (@Will__Murray) September 13, 2019
Bobsleigh Canada athlete calls culture ‘inclusive and safe’
On Saturday Bobsleigh Canada competitor Justin Kripps defended the organization saying he finds the culture to be inclusive and safe.
“I think the program is in a tough place because they are not legally allowed to comment on the situation because the investigation is going on and in the media right now the story that is being told is pretty one-sided,” he argued. After news of the lawsuit broke, Kripps spoke with other members of the World Cup team.
“We’re a bit surprised by the claims, to be honest. I believe that we have a very positive environment and a safe environment to train in and I think Todd Hays is a really good coach.”
Moving forward, Fenlator hopes the situation with Humphries brings the toxic culture to light.
“This is something that is faced on an everyday basis… It can help bring people, who feel that they don’t have a voice, forward to express when they feel they are being wronged.”
With files from Allie Miller.