Former Vancouver Olympic boss John Furlong faces explosive new abuse allegations

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

A freelance reporter is doubling down on damaging allegations against 2010 Vancouver Olympics boss John Furlong, who filed a libel and defamation suit against her last fall.

Laura Robinson's statement of defence, filed with B.C. Supreme Court on Monday, adds new claims Furlong was physically and emotionally abusive to an ex-wife and that he forced sex on a another common-law spouse, The Canadian Press reports.

Furlong sued Robinson and the weekly Georgia Straight newspaper after it published an article last September claiming Furlong physically and verbally abused young aboriginal students at a Roman Catholic elementary school in northern British Columbia when he worked as a volunteer teacher in 1969-70.

Furlong, who's been showered with acclaim and honours including the Order of Canada for leading Vancouver's winning bid for the 2010 Winter Games, then quarterbacking the event to its triumphal conclusion, vigorously denied the original allegations. In November he filed suit, claiming Robinson maliciously set out to damage his reputation.

[ Related: Furlong sues journalist for claiming he abused aboriginal teens ]

Last week, the Georgia Straight, whose publisher and editor are named in Furlong's suit, filed its statement of defence. It argued that it was diligent in trying to verify the contents of Robinson's story and that the article was protected as fair comment because it constituted responsible communication on matters of public interest.

According to an article in The Tyee last week, the Straight's defence statement includes the names of 25 people who say they were physically abused, bullied and/or racially taunted by Furlong.

None of the allegations set out in the various legal filings by both sides have yet been proven in court.

The original article by Robinson, a freelance sports writer, did not mention the new allegations contained in her statement of defence, though Furlong appeared to allude to them in his initial response to it last September.

Monday's filing alleges Furlong, a young Catholic missionary from Ireland who taught physical education at Immaculata School in Burns Lake, B.C., groped one female student on the buttocks and breasts and tried to grope another 13-year-old girl, according to the Vancouver Province.

[ Related: Article about abuse on former Olympic boss fair comment: newspaper ]

The documents filed with the court also allege Furlong hit and slapped his first wife, kindergarten Margaret Furlong, at their living quarters in Prince George between 1970-72, when he taught at a school there.

Robinson claims in her statement that students one time heard the couple arguing and that Margaret Furlong appeared the next morning with her face bruised and swollen. On another occasion, students heard Furlong slap his wife, the defence statement claims.

Robinson's defence statement also alleges Furlong was verbally, physically and sexually abusive to his common-law wife when they lived in Nanaimo, B.C., between 1979 and 1982, the Province reports.

Robinson says in her statement that Furlong's former common-law spouse contacted her after the Georgia Straight article was published. The woman alleged she was forced into non-consensual sex that amounted to rape, including a wordless encounter while she was in the shower that continued even though she hit him, CP reports.

[ Related: Reporter adds to allegations against Furlong in statement of defence ]

The woman also claimed Furlong was controlling and made derogatory and belittling comments, in one instance threatening to throw her cat off the balcony, according to the documents.

Robinson's original article claimed Furlong, who among other things now is executive chairman of the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer club and chairman of Own the Podium, omitted the account of his time at Immaculata and other allegedly unflattering parts of his life from his 2011 autobiography "Patriot Hearts."