Who's not afraid to discuss the GDS story without the cover of anonymity?

Well, I’m not, and I’ll kick it off with the following:

GDS is quite probably the most principled, articulate, and politically conscious athlete on the global scene. To quote a recent Letsrun post, she is the antithesis of the “happy robot” that the vast majority of her colleagues appear to comfortable comporting themselves as. Her eventual lack of tolerance for the kind of ethical “grey area” situation her coach at Bowerman has created around convicted doper Shelby Houlihan was therefore entirely predictable, in spite of the obvious sacrifices leaving that group entailed.

But in entering into a relationship with Trent Stellingwerf at Victoria, she’ll be working with another coach with unanswered questions wrt to ethics. Like Schumacher, Stellingwerf is a highly competent professional with a likeable demeanor and plenty of supporters within the athletics community. He also, however, owes a considerable part of his current profile in the sport to his long time and very close association with Dave Scott Thomas, easily the most notorious distance coach in Canadian history. Trent, like other professionals who worked alongside Scott-Thomas, is highly technically competent. But mere technical competence does not guarantee anyone a shot at the kinds of positions within the sport that he has been able to obtain (note that his research is in nutrition, not ex-phys, though even the latter does not get just anyone onto Olympic sport integrated support teams). There is little question that his entre into Canadian athletics, particularly in the early years, is owed to Dave Scott Thomas. Furthermore, he is all but named in at least two accounts of the multi-year scandal at the University of Guelph as part of the IST that has been credibly accused of athlete abuse. To date Stellingwerf has not had a single public word to say about his long time professional association with DST nor his work under him at the University of Guelph. He is not legally required to say anything at all; but, ethics are not about legal requirements; they are about doing the right thing and being seen to have done it.

I wonder if GDS will hold Stellingwerf to the same ethical standard as she has now applied to Jerry Schumacher.


So he has said some things (see below). Hard to keep track when it’s been two+ years (which is obviously what Guelph wants). It seems he also made a point to speak to Athletics Canada about it, which is more than a lot of people involved have done. I think the main issue with how the majority of people involved have dealt with this revelation is it has been mostly left to words, which institutions can easily defend themselves from, and aside from the alumni letter on irun, there has not been a unified effort. Current athletes, who face much larger risks for speaking out (although still relatively small ones), have done more.

In this unjust society there is always worry about the impact speaking out could have on someone’s career, but people don’t seem willing (or just don’t know how) to do the things that protect against that risk (getting mass support behind you). Even when athletes were able to organize a mass demonstration last fall, coaches were unwilling to do something similar. Notably, Guelph’s current coach did not share the photos of that demonstration to his social media despite the obvious repurcussions the university would have faced if it were to fire him for supporting such an action. That, in my opinion, is cowardly. He’s always happy to share any posts that promote the university and rehabilitate their image for them.

Going back to Trent though, I don’t think his actions to date make Gabriela’s decision a hypocritical one, although it can be argued that more could have (and maybe still can) be done.

Thanks, Uber. I’m glad you reminded me that Stellingwerf did in fact make public statement in the early days of this scandal. But it was the easiest thing in the world at that time to express shock at the Megan Brown element of the story (the most egregious but also the most salacious aspect). He was notably silent, however-- and has remained so-- about the allegations of systematic abuse by the IST (the encouragement to dangerous weight loss and competing while injured). It THIS that the Guelph alums want investigated, and he’s arguably at the center of it. It was Sam Beatty, in fact, who specifically mentioned a “physiologist” who had signed off on some of DST’s more dubious practices. Unless there was somehow another physiologist advising the program, this has to be Stellinwerf. If so, he has, at the very least, serious questions to answer.

And this is to extend him a very generous benefit of the doubt that he had somehow never heard the very credible rumours about DST and Megan Brown. People with no direct connection to Guelph/Speed River-- indeed, people on the opposite coasts of this country-- had heard these rumours, and many of us here in Ontario knew them to be true. I think he protested a little too much in his expression of “shock” about the whole thing. A more believable response would have been something like: “Yeah, we heard the rumours. Turns out they were true, I guess.”

Back to GDS, I guess we’ll see what her position is if/when there is ever a serious investigation of what went down during Stellingwerf’s time working with DST. And perhaps the new SDRCC committee has it on its docket. I don’t think anyone would ever suggest that he’s a figure even remotely as dark as DST. But, an awful lot of people looked away from the things DST did in order to protect their own careers. It’s more than plausible to suspect that he is squarely within this group. The vast majority of people aren’t sociopathic. But all it takes for a talented sociopath to prosper is a room full of morally pliable careerists.

As for Guelph’s “current coach”, let’s just say they new who they were getting when they hired him. Same with Queen’s new guy. Some people don’t need to be told to wear the muzzle. They put it on themselves and call it “professionalism”. To them it’s “to hell with the victims. They can look after themselves.”

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For those unaware, the post Steve is talking about where Sam Beattie talks about the integrated support team is here: University Of Guelph’s Toxic Running Culture Made Me Think It Was All Normal | HuffPost Personal

I think I pretty much agree with everything else you said Steve. Although I am not sure if the mentality is so much “to hell with the victims” as it is a belief that one can enter an institution and change it for the better by simply putting the past behind them and working their way up from a non-power position. This is obviously nonsense, especially when those whose misuse of power that led to the systematic abuse of numerous athletes remain in power and have faced zero consequences. It could also be a defeatist attitude (“nothing will change”) which is silly and a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think the other thing that plays into it is the belief that we owe universities something for funding sport, when in reality students pay athletics fees on top of thousands in tuition, part of which is used to fund the athletics department to help market the university. Even if it wasn’t a business tool, just because people do some things that benefit you doesn’t make them exempt from criticism and consequences.

Whether it is meant or not, “to hell with the victims” is the final result. It’s actually quite sickening to me that someone could come into that environment and rehabilitate the institution’s image for those in charge rather than helping the athletes fight for justice and think they are doing a good thing.

I do think GDS is one of the most exemplary athletes out there these days so I think unless there is an investigation (which there should be), we should probably trust her judgement. There are a lot of things we don’t know. As for what we do know:

  1. Trent was at Guelph for years with DST where numerous athletes reported hearing rumours about Megan Brown being “crazy.”
  2. A physiologist was involved with conduct that was harmful to the women’s team.
  3. Trent publicly condemned DST’s acts against Megan Brown (the bare minimum) and the failure of the university to properly investigate at the time.
  4. Trent and Hillary spoke to Athletics Canada regarding their investigation (which gave DST a lifetime ban but didn’t do anything else). They also made calls for the “rule of 2,” which is better than nothing but still doesn’t solve the problem of those in power being generally unaccountable for their actions.

It’s hard to say what conclusions can be drawn from that. It’s likely anyone involved at least heard rumours but was obviously told by DST they were ridiculous and false. The general careerist attitude and pressure of society helps these things go unquestioned which makes it fair for us to be critical but hard to place blame, although I guess that thought applies more to the athletes than the staff. Hopefully anyone involved would act differently if faced with a similar situation now.

I do agree that it is fair to expect more from Trent after reading Sam’s article. I don’t think it is fair to expect GDS to only train under him if such a statement is made public unless an investigation happens and discloses more details, especially given her openness with other things. The bar is set pretty low for athletes though. We seem to be very content to ignore things in most cases, although there are factors that play into that too of course.


Agreed. As far as GDS goes, if there ever IS any kind of proper investigation, I would fully expect her to require clarity from Stellingwerf about whatever role he may have played within the Guelph IST at that time-- and he was a very close and long time associate of DST, after all. Not as an athlete, either; rather, as a fully credentialed and qualified adult professional. At the moment, she has probably been through too much. And there were very few other viable options, I’m sure.

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I feel like the statements you have made use way too much Pathos, and not enough ethos or logos. As the queens former head coach who had his position terminated due to your emotions getting the better source: “Queen's track and field coach fired after condemning Guelph's handling of Dave Scott-Thomas | CBC Sports” many could say that you are too close to this situation to bring up an unbiased opinion. Calling someone out, or questioning a coaches ethics for the way they handled a big event when you yourself handled the situation in some what of an unprofessional manner would call this hypocritical. Further more, multiple athletes across canada that work or have worked with Trent stellingwerf credit most of their success to him. Lastly, there have also been multiple athletes that went to guelph during DST’s coaching period, and now train with Trent Stellingwerf, and are actually some of the best athletes to ever represent Canada in athletics. If these athletes have Trent Stellingwerf as their head coach, after having their previous coach be DST, it would be safe to say that they are holding Trent to a higher ethical standard than a athlete who wasn’t coached by DST.

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Thanks for the reply, but I think you’ve sidestepped the main issue here.

Stellingwerf may have the retained the confidence of a number of athletes post his involvement in Guelph’s IST under Dave Scott Thomas, but that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for answering questions relating to abuse allegations-- questions raised not by me, but by nearly a dozen alums from the program-- that cover his time within the Guelph IST. He’s not any more on the hook in this respect than others within the IST, or indeed within the Guelph admin that ostensibly supervised it, but he is very much on the hook with the rest of them.

If there had been a proper investigation of the Guelph Track and XC programs under DST-- like the one still being publicly called for by the aforementioned alums-- he would already have been asked to account for himself. As things stand, he along with several others is being protected by the stonewalling of Guelph admin.

Finally, I was terminated at the express request of the same Guelph admin that today denies its alums access to the truth. If anyone couldn’t control their emotions (in this case fear) it was Guelph admin!

Just because an opinion might be biased doesn’t make it invalid. Look at the facts posted above. I think it’s fair to expect more publicly from an IST member who was basically named in a piece written by a former athlete.

It’s great that athletes have trust in Trent. Clearly, based on the things he has said, lessons have been learned. Still, it doesn’t make him exempt from addressing new info.

I also don’t think comparing decades of various forms of abuse inflicted upon athletes to public comments (that sought to hold the institution that allowed the abuse to happen accountable) is valid. It can be argued some of the comments were too inflammatory, and an apology was issued to address that, but it’s nowhere near comparable. Like Steve said, it was the at the request of that abusive administration that he was fired.

Well Dave’s top 2 boys were at the inferno.
With no shame in their game, they walk freely among us