Banned swim coach finally turned away from pool
The scene at Oakville city council this week strained credulity: Parents from the Dolphins Swim Club claiming it was a violation of human rights to strip the organization and their kids of their prime pool time.
In case you don’t know Russell, here are some things you won’t find on his coaching curriculum vitae:
x- He was banned for life from coaching in Canada in 1997 for his involvement in an international steroid trafficking ring.
x- At the 1997 murder trial of one of his steroid trafficking associates, Russell admitted helping burn and dispose of the victim’s butchered body in a corn silo beside his Oshawa home.
x- Russell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possession with intent to distribute ecstasy in 2003 and spent four years in prison in Spain and the U.S.
x- He managed to get his lifetime coaching ban lifted in 2005 by claiming he’d been exonerated in the ecstasy case, but was banned for life a second time in June 2007 after American authorities unsealed documents after a front-page Saturday Star story showed Russell had likely misrepresented the case.
But Russell has continued to coach ever since while essentially thumbing his nose at the seemingly powerless swim authorities. It’s a black cloud that hangs over Canadian swimming.
But finally this year after another complaint, Swim Ontario moved to take action and the Dolphins Swim Club cut a deal with them on a five-month suspension which kicks in Jan. 1, 2012. The Dolphins also agreed to pay $2,500, the first fine in Swim Ontario history.
The Dolphins started a probation period in September and are no longer a member in good standing of Swim Ontario. As a result, the City of Oakville removed their preferential pool time and left them with only three hours during school time.
Hence the aggrieved parents, one of whom went as far as to say Monday night before council that her child’s human rights were being violated.
“Please keep in mind the impact your decisions may have on shaping their values and views,” she told the council.
Umm, these parents might want to consider that themselves. Just what message are they sending to their children?
“It always comes back to the question: Why aren’t the parents respecting the lifetime ban?” said Paul Melia, ceo for the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. “Why are they continuing to take their children to this individual?
“And I guess we know the answer. This individual has obviously been able to convince them he’s been unfairly treated and they believe him to be a very successful and effective coach and they want their kids coached by him. These parents are flaunting that sanction. That’s probably the most disturbing part from our point of view.”
Mayor Rob Burton has been pretty clear on what it will take for the Dolphins to get their pool time returned in Oakville: Stop associating with Russell.
“I don’t think I can be any clearer,” said Burton.
This isn’t over. Not by a longshot.
The Dolphins have 10 swimmers trying to make the Canadian Olympic team, including Russell’s son Colin and daughter Sinead, who was a finalist in the women’s 100-metre backstroke at this year’s world championships. Sinead is training at the national centre at the University of Toronto at the moment.
Dolphins coach Erin Russell, Cecil’s wife, says they’re concerned about the situation but didn’t want to comment further.
“Sorry it will have to wait till court,” she said in an email. “Will send dates you understand then the truth will come forward.”
We’ll see about that. Right now, it appears it's the Dolphin parents who can’t handle the truth.