Rugby Canada condemned “inappropriate comments” aimed at the women’s rugby sevens team after it missed the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sevens veteran Charity Williams shared a screengrab of several tweets from the account of Jamie Cudmore, who runs Rugby Canada’s national development program.
One of the since-deleted tweets from Cudmore’s account read “Karma is a bitch! #Survivorsmyass.” Rugby Canada confirmed the tweet came from Cudmore’s account.
“What we accomplished this year is far greater than one weekend,” Williams wrote on Instagram, referring to a formal complaint filed by the team in January under Rugby Canada’s bullying and harassment policy.
“But instead I have to sit here, once again, and share what we’ve been going through as a team. The consistent hatred we have received from people in our own organization,” Williams wrote. I’m only sharing because this is what we have been dealing with for months.
“From private texts, to public stalking online and in person. The bullying and harassment that we have received for coming forward is outrageous and scary at times. This is the reason we called for an internal investigation because we haven’t been safe.”
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An independent review concluded that while the conduct described in the complaint filed by 37 current and former team members reflected the experiences of the athletes, it did not fall within Rugby Canada’s policy’s definition of harassment or bullying.
In a statement released April 28, the players said their complaint “explained the psychological abuse, harassment and/or bullying these athletes feel they were subjected to in the centralized training environment.”
Head coach John Tait subsequently stepped down in April, while maintaining he had done nothing wrong.
In the wake of the investigation, the players said they had been let down by Rugby Canada’s harassment and bullying policy. The policy has since been updated and replaced.
“Rugby Canada stands with our women’s 7s athletes,” the governing body said in a social media post Friday. “We support the team in their efforts both on and off the rugby pitch and are proud of the way they have represented our country. Rugby Canada is aware of recent social media comments made about the team and worked to ensure they were removed as quickly as possible.
“Our organizational values include solidarity and respect, and everyone on our staff is expected to help create an inclusive environment for all. We condemn any inappropriate comments directed at the team and our leadership will be meeting to address this matter immediately.”
1/3: Rugby Canada stands with our women’s 7s athletes. We support the team in their efforts both on and off the rugby pitch and are proud of the way they have represented our country. <a href=”https://t.co/yOeT7l4C3l”>pic.twitter.com/yOeT7l4C3l</a>
‘We are proud and united,’ captain writes
Williams also expressed gratitude to those who have supported the team. “We have heard you and we love you. We don’t regret a single moment and the team’s heads are all held high right now,” Williams wrote.
Captain Ghislaine Landry also took to social media from Tokyo.
“We always knew this was about more than rugby, about more than one tournament, even if it’s the Olympics,” Landry wrote. “We knew the last nine months might put our Olympic dream in jeopardy, we had that discussion as a group, and still the decision was clear. We were ready to put our dreams at risk for change.
“This has not been a distraction but it has taken a toll on us. And so, while we are heartbroken not to have been able to play our best, we are proud and united.”
The Canadian squad entered Tokyo with medal expectations after winning bronze in rugby sevens’ Olympic debut five years ago in Rio. The team opened up strong against Brazil, but dropped its next two matches to Fiji and France.
Canada still had a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals as one of the two best third-place teams, but were ultimately edged out by China and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team.
Canada will face Kenya in the ninth-place game Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Cudmore, a former Canadian player who now also serves as an assistant coach with the men’s 15s team, did not immediately respond to an interview request from The Canadian Press.
He posted a statement on Twitter on Friday apologizing for his tweets.
I would like to apologize for the tweets posted last night. It’s was an emotional event for a good friend and I let that get the better of me. I’ve always played/coached with my heart on my sleeve for this great country 🇨🇦 I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone.