The former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics has issued a second statement condemning last week’s article about him in the Georgia Straight, characterizing it as a “disgrace beyond words”.
On October 2, John Furlong declared on his website that journalist Laura Robinson and the Straight “were warned repeatedly of the consequences for printing damaging, untrue information”.
“Legal action against both is now in process for a retraction, full apology and substantial monetary damages,” Furlong stated.
He alleged that the “past five days have been humiliating and demeaning beyond anything my family and I have ever experienced”. He added that his relatives “have been subjected to scrutiny, sarcasm, disrespect and outrageous invasions of privacy”.
In his 2011 memoir Patriot Hearts, Furlong wrote that he moved to Canada from Ireland in 1974. The article by Robinson noted that Furlong first arrived in Canada as an Oblate Frontier Apostle in 1969, becoming a phys-ed instructor at Immaculata elementary school in Burns Lake.
In his October 2 statement, Furlong acknowledged that he did indeed come to a small school in Burns Lake as a volunteer in 1969, where he “worked hard to try and be a positive influence”. Eight former students have sworn affidavits alleging they either experienced or witnessed him using physical force; Furlong maintained that he “cared deeply for the students” and left after 14 months.
“As this time will be discussed at length in court, I can say only that as a volunteer teacher I treated everyone in a fair, appropriate manner and at no time unlawfully or harmfully,” he stated. “I have never denied nor purposefully omitted speaking publicly of this time. It was not material in any way to my very difficult and emotional decision to leave Ireland permanently and where the story of my life as a Canadian begins.”
After the article was published, the coauthor of Furlong’s Patriot Hearts, Gary Mason, told the media that he was unaware that the former Vanoc CEO had spent time in Burns Lake.
Furlong’s statement also pointed out that his eldest son was born in Ireland in 1973 and not in Canada, as had been asserted in the article.
Furlong also took great exception to a section of the article dealing with the death of his cousin Siobhan Roice in a terrorist bombing in Dublin in 1974. Her brother, Jim Roice, told Robinson that Furlong’s father did not identify the body. Furlong, however, maintained in his book that his father performed this task on behalf of the family—and attacked Robinson’s reporting.
“She challenges my father’s role in identifying her body, how he identified her, his subsequent death, the damage it did to us and my resulting decision to leave Ireland permanently for Canada,” Furlong stated. “Ms. Robinson’s cruel words are entirely wrong, have inflicted agony and stress and have revisited a horrible tragedy on us.”
He went on to say that in an effort to protect Roice’s mother, the family told her that his cousin “had died quickly with little suffering from a heart attack”.
“I have been reminded again by family in Ireland recently that this is how they have spoken of this tragedy ever since in a caring and continuous show of compassion to help her and the whole family try to heal,” Furlong stated.
Robinson has issued a statement noting that “the people who have a different version of the story are his uncle and cousin.”
“I simply quoted them,” she stated. “When I interviewed Jim Roice, Siobhan’s brother, he never mentioned the family’s story to protect his mother. I read Mr. Furlong’s version of events to Mr. Roice straight from Mr. Furlong’s book.”
In addition, Furlong alleged that Robinson, a former member of the national cycling team, has “open contempt for the Olympic Games and male authority figures in sport”.
Robinson replied in her statement that her journalistic work “speaks for itself” and that “this includes my questioning of male authority figures in sport.”
“Before and during the Olympics I asked Vanoc many times for their sexual harassment policy,” she added. “Eventually I was told it was not available to the public. I did not receive the policy until Vanoc chair Rusty Goepel sent it to me in the spring of 2012—over two years after the Olympics. The sexual harassment policy was just one of a number of documents of which I asked Vanoc to share. None of the requests were filled. These were not top secret documents.”