Olympic-sized defection? Kaillie Humphries alleges harassment, seeks spot on Team USA
She’s a two-time Olympic gold medallist, a two-time bobsled world champion and acted as Canada’s flag bearer at the Sochi games in 2014. Now, Kaillie Humphries is seeking the chance to fly different colours and compete south of the border for Team USA.
After filing a harassment complaint against Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) last year, the 34-year-old Calgarian asked to be released.
Humphries is now suing the organization for blocking her release, she confirmed in a statement to CTV News Friday.
"I can confirm that I am seeking a full release from Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton," said Humphries. "Last August I filed a harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada. I was in a position where my workplace environment was impaired and I couldn’t compete. It has been over a year and they have not completed their internal investigation. I have done everything I can but cannot return to a work environment that I do not believe is safe."
Humphries adds that she’s not choosing to leave Canada but simply wants to continue her athletic career and avoid early retirement.
"This has been the most difficult ordeal of my life and I want Canada to know that competing for you, and winning for you at the Olympics, will always be the highlight of my career."
Russel Reimer, Humphries’ agent, stands by his client’s decision and is now encouraging other athletes to join her side.
"It’s sad to see someone who has given so much to this country to be put into a situation where she feels the only place or only potential that she has to fulfil herself athletically is outside of Canada," said Reimer. "Athletes should not be exempt from unsafe workplace environments and this is a massive issue. This isn’t about whether someone thinks they can fulfil their athletic potential south of the border, this is about the preconditions that led to the most difficult decision in a woman’s life."
Bobsleigh Canada Skelton responded following Humphries' announcement and the organization says it fully abides by its harassment and discrimination policy that has been in place since 2006.
"The Alberta litigation matter by Ms. Humphries, the plaintiff, which names Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton as the defendant, is the subject of an open court process," said spokesperson Chris Dornan in a statement. "As for the investigation of Ms. Humphries’ discrimination and harassment complaint made under the policy, we can’t provide any comments since the investigation is strictly private and confidential as provided in the policy."
The national sport organization went on to say that it looks forward to the findings of the complaint review and won’t be commenting further out of respect for all parties involved.
Meanwhile, some Canadian athletes have taken to social media to express their support.
Jon Montgomery, a skeleton gold medalist at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and host of CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada, posted the following on Twitter.
"Um-This is ain’t right! What Canada do? “I got nothin but I go mad RESPECT for this woman and I’ve had dealings with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton... She needs help and sliding for the USA is not an option for Canada. But if this plays out the way it’s going, I don’t blame her!"
Questions still remain on how Humphries could obtain an American citizenship. That dispute could be cleared up soon as she is scheduled to marry an American this weekend in San Diego, where she has been living and training.
According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), an athlete who changes their nationality "may participate in the Olympic Games to represent their new country provided that at least three years have passed since the competitor last represented their former country".
That three-year period could be reduced or even cancelled with the approval of the National Olympic Committee or the IOC executive board.
Humphries had dominated women's bobsled winning four overall World Cup titles in a span of six seasons before her hiatus last winter. She also became the first woman to drive an all-female crew against men in a four-man World Cup bobsled race in 2016 and has been lobbying for women to get their own four-person races at the Olympic Games.