Olympics: Bitter rift rocks AOC as John Coates fights for job

28 April 2017, 01:12 | Kristine Mills

The AOC's board is to hold a crisis meeting before next week's crunch presidential ballot

The AOC's board is to hold a crisis meeting before next week's crunch presidential ballot

Former CEO Fiona de Jong, who departed the AOC in December, confirmed to local media she had made a formal complaint against the AOC's media and communications director Mike Tancred.

Tancred told the AOC of his decision to stand down ahead of the crisis meeting of the executive board on Wednesday evening. The organisation has its presidential election on May 6, and the 27-year tenure of long-serving AOC president John Coates is under serious threat for the first time. On Wednesday night, the board referred that complaint to a separate independent inquiry by three yet-to-be- named senior lawyers or retired judges, acting with "absolute and sole discretion".

The AOC said the workplace review would be overseen by the incoming CEO and aimed "to ensure the best possible environment for our staff".

"The AOC supports an environment free from discrimination, harassment and bullying and will not tolerate behaviors that differ from this standard", the statement said.

Challenging Coates is hockey gold medallist from the 1996 Olympics and businesswoman Danni Roche.

In a letter written this week to national Olympic sports chiefs and the AOC executive, Coates, 67, said he was the victim of a "co-ordinated and vindictive campaign" to get rid of him.

Australia correspondent Donna Demaio told Nadine Higgins Mr Coates also criticised the woman's performance, encouraging her to quit.

Today's emergency board meeting in Sydney largely focused on discussion of De Jong's complaint against Tancred.

Ms de Jong said that, during her treatment the woman had "rarely missed a day of work".

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Tancred has denied all allegations made against him, with De Jong now also alleging an incident involving Coates himself.

In a subsequent email, which was also sent to senior managers, he wrote: [The woman] is a solicitor, hardly a junior member of staff.

Coates wrote back the following: "If she's offended it's probably time for her to get out in the real world", he wrote back.

Former AOC chief executive De Jong recently spoke out against the alleged conduct of Tancred.

"The executive expressed confidence that the current AOC proper processes were followed in respect of the complaint by Ms.de Jong", it added in the statement.

Paralympic Committee chief executive Lynne Anderson said comments such as Mr Coates' made it much more hard for people with disabilities in their "ongoing fight for respect".

Ms de Jong said Mr Carroll could be put in a hard position should claims of misconduct be made against members of the executive, headed by President John Coates.

"The tone is meant to denigrate".

"I'm not sure how many complaints are required in order for an organisation to be characterised as having a culture of bullying", de Jong wrote.

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