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Moving Forward

May 15, 2020

Dave Scott-Thomas was my coach from 1998 until 2019. In mid-December Dave was fired from the University of Guelph and earlier this year was handed a lifetime ban from coaching from Athletics Canada. About three months ago The Globe and Mail published an article detailing the sexual relationship between Dave Scott-Thomas and Megan Brown that took place in the years between 2002 to 2005.

 

I wrote down some thoughts a few months ago but didn’t feel like putting anything out for a while. The other week I did a Zoom interview with Stephen Andersen and the topic came up. After that video interview a couple of people reached out to me and had more questions. They were hesitant to ask before they saw the interview not knowing if it was something I was comfortable discussing.

 

I hope to shed some light on the story and answer questions people might have.

 

Early Years 1998-2005

 

I met Dave when he toured me around UofG (University of Guelph) campus in the Spring of 1998. He had sent me a recruiting letter after I finished 18th at OFSAA XC (provincial HS champs). A friend told me he was a good up-and-coming coach so I figured it was worth looking into the program.

 

My first year at UofG I was the alternate on the XC team that finished second at the national championships. Over the next four years the men’s team went on to win four University XC championships. I ended up winning the 3000m at my final university championships and I knew I wanted to see if I could reach another level with my running. It was a no-brainer for me to stay in Guelph after graduating and be coached by Dave.

 

Dave had a long-term athlete development plan for me and I whole-heartedly trusted his coaching. His support and team culture would attract other post-collegiate athletes to join his club, Speed River. I went on to qualify for the 2005 World Championships a couple years after graduating from UofG. Later that summer I finished second at the World University Games 5000m. By 2005 I had accomplished much more than what I thought was possible only a few years earlier.

 

Megan started training with Speed River in 2001 as a high-school athlete but I don’t really remember anything in particular until 2002. Megan was a big talent and very eager to learn. She asked many questions and was always grateful for any insight. She had a very positive attitude and a good sense of humour.

 

I’m not sure when it started but at some point Dave and Megan were spending a lot of time together. She would stay after practice and talk, the two would go on walks and she would often be in Dave’s office before practice. It was something many of us talked about but we didn’t suspect anything inappropriate. We knew Megan’s mother had passed away a few years earlier and Dave was acting in a parental role. Some of us weren’t happy that Megan took up so much of his time but given what she’d been through we understood why she would need extra attention.

 

Some people have asked me if I saw anything inappropriate during those years – I didn’t. After reading the article I understand how people could think there must have been obvious signs that a relationship was taking place. Looking back, I think Dave acted in a way as to not raise any suspicion knowing what he had to lose if anyone found out. It was obvious to everyone that they spent a lot of time together so I assume he behaved very carefully. There were 30 plus people on the team and I would like to believe anyone would have reported wrongdoing had it been witnessed.

 

2019-2020

 

Michael Doyle (who reported the story) emailed me (late 2019) asking for quotes about Dave but didn’t give any specific context. I’ve known Michael for years through the running community and had recently spent a morning with him as he detailed a training run leading up to October’s STWM. I was comfortable enough to shoot him straight talk and replied something along the lines that I didn’t think he had a story. At the time I believed Dave’s absence from University coaching was to deal with family stuff (I learned later he was put on leave for an investigation).

 

Some days later a friend was trying to get a hold of me while I was in Kenya and it was obvious it was important. We connected on a call and he let me know that Dave admitted that there was some substance to the story about Megan that was being investigated by Michael Doyle. The revelation that there had been a sexual relationship between Dave and Megan was heavy news to process.

 

When I got off that call I went to talk to Marie (my wife) about what I had just learned. My mind was racing trying to piece things together and come to grips with what Dave had done some 15 years earlier. I then went and found John Mason (Speed River teammate who was also training in Kenya), I told him the news, and we went for a run together and talked about what I had just heard.

 

I then sent a message to Michael Doyle letting him know that I understood there was indeed a story (to say the least). It sounded as though the article was coming out really soon so I sent Michael a couple of quotes. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to praise Dave’s coaching in the same article that revealed a dark past. That was a reservation many people had about coming forward. Many people have had a positive impact by Dave but they don’t care to publicly say that right now, understandably. It could easily come across as though you’re sticking up for Dave’s actions.

 

The article didn’t come out while I was in Kenya and when I got back to Canada I talked to Michael Doyle for almost 2 hours for the article. He was very thorough with his questions as he tried to piece things together. Off the bat he asked me if I was around practice much after graduating in 2003. I was at pretty much every practice from 2003-2005. (In 2006 I started to travel to warm-weather camps in the winter, altitude camps and then in 2010 started to workout in the morning with road/marathon crew. By 2011 I was barely around the collegiate team and some semesters didn’t even attend a single practice). During the period when Dave and Megan had a relationship I was around a lot, often popping into Dave’s office before practice and even going on some team trips for competitions.

 

One thing that surprised Michael was that I had a conversation with Dave about the sexual allegations. In 2006 Dave had a meeting with a few senior athletes. He told us that Megan’s father had brought allegations against him to the University of Guelph. Dave told us that he had been collecting evidence of Megan’s behaviour, such as middle-of-the-night phone calls to his house. He also told us about instances where Megan needed help and he had gone to lengths to help her. He told us that Megan was not talking to the University which made it sound as though she made the story up to her father.

 

When we left the meeting with Dave our conversation focused on feeling bad for Dave and Brenda for having to go through this. We also felt sorry for Megan, who must have been in a bad place that she felt she had to fabricate this story. I didn’t think for a minute that Dave actually had a sexual relationship with Megan. Dave always conducted himself professionally and any other narrative seemed too far from his character. I understand if you’re reading those last sentences (and you weren’t around the team back then) you might think that I’m really naïve or I chose to believe what was convenient for me.

 

Weeks went by and the article still hadn’t come out. Coincidently Michael was doing a story on the Vaporflys and we chatted about that. After his shoe questions I asked him if his other article was ever coming out. He told me it had been held up but it would be published soon and that he’d give me a heads up before it came out. He did let me know on Friday (Feb 7th) that it was coming out the next morning.

 

When I woke up Saturday the article wasn’t available online so I went to the grocery store and got a copy. I sat down to read it and even though I knew what it was about I wasn’t prepared for what I read. Details of Dave and Megan’s sexual relationship were very upsetting to say the least.

 

It was unnerving to read about what transpired on trips that I was on. I remember the RV trip to national XC in Moncton. My goal was to qualify for World XC and I finished outside the top 10 and subsequently missed the team by one or two spots. I remember the bus trip to Penn State. My goal was to break the UofG 3000m record and I accomplished that by running 8:09 in one of my last races for the University.

 

I feel guilty that I have fond memories from my time at UofG when someone else was going through turmoil when they should have had a similar experience to me. I feel guilty that I believed Dave and came to his defense if someone asked about the rumour. (Maybe because people knew I was close to Dave I rarely had people asking me about Megan and Dave).

 

I often think back to what I saw and question what I could have done to prevent or stop what was happening with Megan. I’ve had many conversations with athletes who were also around at that time and who wonder the same thing. Nothing we saw alarmed us and nothing led us to believe such a relationship was taking place. Once you know the truth you start to question if something should have alarmed us. That’s tough to deal with and most people understand the position we’re in.

 

2006

 

When the University of Guelph was informed by Megan’s dad in September 2006 that Dave had an inappropriate relationship with Megan I don’t feel as though they did a thorough enough investigation. At least not in my opinion because, like I said, I was around a LOT and I was never asked anything. Neither were the teammates and assistant coaches that I’ve talked to recently. Bottom line: If a serious accusation is made, you do a serious investigation.

 

I’m not sure what/if such an investigation would have uncovered but you won’t know until you turn over every rock.

 

I don’t think that UofG administrators believed Dave had a sexual relationship with Megan and that they ignored it to win more titles. No one cares that much about titles. I believe Dave deceived everyone with his credibility. I think if they thought a serious infraction had occurred they would have acted accordingly and done the right thing.

 

(I was reluctant to include that last paragraph because I know it might make people mad. But I was around and that is my opinion having known the Guelph athletic department to a certain degree so I’ll give my insight).

 

I found out in an article in January 2020 that Dave had served a one month suspension in 2006 for something connected to Megan’s accusations. I, nor anyone else I talked to, remembers that suspension. I don’t know what he was suspended for but my guess is that he admitted to something on a smaller scale.

 

How did we not know Dave was suspended for a month? My guess is that Dave didn’t host any UofG practices after CIS XC and through exams, which isn’t unusual. I can’t specifically recall but the Speed River athletes must have been getting workouts throughout that suspension.

 

 

By 2006 Dave had had 2 athletes qualify for major championships (myself in the 5000m at 2005 WC and 2006 CWG and Hilary Stellingwerff in the 1500m at 2006 CWG) and zero Olympians. He was not that powerful of a coach by 2006 (not that a powerful coach should get away with anything unethical). There are other coaches with similar accolades as to what Dave had achieved by that point and I don’t think for a second there is some kind of special protection for them. As I said, I think Dave deceived many people and had them believe his story.

 

 

2019-2020

 

I haven’t communicated with Dave since I heard the truth in December. It was hard to process what he did to Megan as I didn’t think that was in his nature. I had trusted him and seeing how much he had influenced my life it was a lot to take in.

 

Marie saw this was troubling me and suggested I see a therapist. I was hesitant but had no response to “it can’t hurt.” After my first session with the therapist, at the end of February, I was thinking much more clearly and was able to separate the good from the bad. Therapy wasn’t what I pictured, there was no chaise-lounge. It was more like having a conversation with a friend but one who has professional insight and lots of experience dealing with heavy situations. Anyways, I’m really happy I went and I’ve since had two more sessions.

 

Megan and I had a great conversation in March. I think we were able to answer each other’s questions and make sense of some things. She is unbelievably positive and in a good space considering what she went through and the stress that comes with telling her story. Megan is truly remarkable.

 

Moving Forward

 

We need to try and prevent something like this happening again. How do we do that? One thing is to make sure a coach does not spend time alone with an athlete. In coaching there is something called the “Rule of Two” that states there should be at least two adult coaches present with a minor. And preferably two coaches and two minors.

 

For me it means looking for signs that something isn’t right and following up. I don’t know what that might be but having gone through this I hope to be able to pick up on things that are amiss.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Dixon permalink
    May 16, 2020 7:16 am

    Good post. Hopefully it satisfies the people who have been demanding something expansive from you.

    • reidcoolsaet permalink*
      May 17, 2020 8:03 am

      Thanks Martin. If anything this is a start and it’s simply keeping the conversation going.

  2. barbaraphelan131 permalink
    May 16, 2020 11:52 pm

    Hey Reid: You’ve put a lot of time and thought into this. I read Michael Doyle’s article and am upset about what happened to Megan.
    As well as making sure there are strict rules in place for coaches, it would good if athletes understand the rules and were provided with a safe process to express their concerns.
    Thanks for posting, Barbara

    • reidcoolsaet permalink*
      May 17, 2020 7:59 am

      Thanks Barb. You’re absolutely right. Athletes should have an avenue where they can feel safe expressing concerns. On top of that, it would be great if Universities (and other institutions) would conduct exit interviews with athletes.

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