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Former Vancouver Olympic CEO calls latest allegations of abuse 'unfounded'


Former Vancouver Olympic organizing committee president and CEO John Furlong reads a statement in Vancouver on September 27, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - Former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong says new allegations accusing him of physically abusing a former spouse and sexually assaulting another are "completely unfounded."

Furlong issued a statement Tuesday through the Twentyten Group, the consulting company he works with, saying he will respond in court to the latest claims made by reporter Laura Robinson.

"While John is confident he will ultimately be vindicated by the court, his primary concern right now is the irreparable harm being caused to his family by this unfounded attack on his character and reputation," the statement said.

Furlong is suing Robinson for defamation after she wrote a story for the Georgia Straight newspaper that included allegations from former students who claimed he was physically and verbally abusive while he was a volunteer teacher in British Columbia in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Robinson filed her statement of defence on Monday and included the new claims.

None of the accusations has been tested in court and Furlong said in his statement Tuesday that his legal team will be filing a formal response in court in the next few days.

The statement called Robinson's statement of claim an unfounded attack on his character and reputation.

After Robinson's story appeared in the newspaper in the fall, Furlong sued, insisting in a statement of claim filed last November that the story was false and accused Robinson of waging a personal campaign to discredit him. He held a news conference the day the article was published denying he had ever abused any students.

In her statement of defence, Robinson stands by her story, insisting she was diligent in verifying the allegations and attempted to contact Furlong to seek his side of the story. She also argues the article amounts to fair comment and is protected by a relatively new legal defence known as responsible communication.

But the 22-page statement of defence also adds to the allegations that have haunted Furlong's reputation since the story was first published.

Robinson's statement of defence says that since her article was published, she was contacted by a former common law spouse of Furlong's, with whom Furlong lived with in Nanaimo, B.C., from 1979 until 1982.

The statement of defence says the woman alleged Furlong "felt that he had a licence to have sex on demand, which resulted in her being forced to have non-consensual sexual relations on many occasions." The woman is not named.

"The plaintiff had a habit of exposing himself to her, which caused her to feel sexually debased," says Robinson's statement of defence.

"The plaintiff raped her many times. On one particular occasion, he forcibly raped her while she was taking a shower, without saying a word. He continued to force himself on her, even though she was hitting him and trying to get him off her."

The statement of defence also says Furlong was controlling and routinely made derogatory, belittling comments, on one occasion threatening to throw her cat off a balcony.

Robinson's statement of defence also alleges Furlong physically and emotionally abused another woman, his former wife Margaret Furlong, when they were living in Prince George, B.C., and working at the same school between 1970 and 1972.

The statement of defence says on one evening, students outside their living quarters could hear John Furlong yelling at his wife inside. The next morning, "Margaret Furlong had a huge bruise on her face and her eyes were red and swollen," the statement of defence says.

On another occasion, the statement of defence says, students heard Furlong slap his wife.

The allegations are included in Robinson's response to defend emails she sent staff at Own the Podium, an athlete development agency, of which Furlong is chairman. The emails, sent in November of last year, suggested she had received new allegations and described Furlong as "violent and a racist."

Robinson's statement of defence says she wrote the emails while attempting to seek comment about two additional stories, which have yet to be published.

She also denies Furlong's claim that she is waging a personal vendetta against him, insisting that she repeatedly sought his side of the story but was either shouted at by Furlong or given a blanket denial by his lawyer.

The Georgia Straight newspaper, its editor and its publisher filed their own statement of defence earlier this month, denying the story was defamatory and, like Robinson, arguing the article is protected as fair comment and responsible communication.

Most of the allegations in the Georgia Straight article involved Furlong's time as a volunteer teacher at Immaculata Catholic School in Burns Lake. Immaculata was a religious school run by the Oblates, a missionary order, but it was not an Indian residential school. Students, including non-natives, attended by day.

After teaching and coaching at Immaculata for 14 months, Furlong moved to another religious school in Prince George.

Furlong said he never hid or purposely omitted speaking about his time teaching in Burns Lake or Prince George. He said it didn't appear in his biography because it wasn't related to the Olympics and because it was brief and uneventful.


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