Nothing ‘nefarious’ behind his lifetime suspension, says owner and head coach of Champions Gymnastics in Peterborough

Gymnastics Ontario states 'complaints' are at root of its decision to suspend Marcel Rene for life but will not provide details

For over 30 years, Champions Gymnastics in Peterborough has been providing recreational and competitive gymnastics and cheerleading classes for children of all ages and skill levels. (Photo: Champions Gymnastics)
For over 30 years, Champions Gymnastics in Peterborough has been providing recreational and competitive gymnastics and cheerleading classes for children of all ages and skill levels. (Photo: Champions Gymnastics)

Gymnastic Ontario’s lifetime suspension of Marcel Rene, the longtime owner and coach of Champions Gymnastics in Peterborough, isn’t the result of anything “nefarious.”

That’s the word from Rene, 71, who tells kawarthaNOW that if there were any reason for his suspension that should alarm the parents and guardians of his young athletes, Gymnastics Ontario wouldn’t have given him the option of re-applying for his membership in three years’ time and wouldn’t be allowing him to stay in his current position until January 1, 2022.

Gymnastics Ontario, the sport’s governing body in Ontario that sets operating standards and practices for member clubs, posted a notice about Rene’s lifetime suspension on its website on Monday (November 1) that gave no reason for the suspension.

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In a statement about the suspension emailed to kawarthaNOW on Tuesday, Gymnastics Ontario CEO Dave Sandford states Rene’s suspension resulted “following complaints” received by the organization, but provided no details about the nature of the complaints.

“Out of respect for the complainants, Gymnastics Ontario is unable to provide particulars in respect of the matters that were raised in the complaints,” Sandford adds. “Gymnastics Ontario can confirm that when the complaints were made known to it, they were investigated and promptly dealt with. Gymnastics Ontario can further confirm that the individuals affected by the allegations made against Mr. Rene were involved in the complaints process, including its resolution.”

Sandford also states there is no “risk of harm” from Rene continuing as a coach of Champions Gymnastics until the suspension takes effect in the new year.

“Gymnastics Ontario has not been apprised of any information that suggests there is any risk of harm to its members in permitting Mr. Rene a brief period of time to remove himself from Champions’ operations.”

While at no point in his statement does Sandford state that Rene can re-apply for membership in three years, Rene says that’s the case as confirmed by an agreement rider.

“Whatever conflict that was involved has all been settled,” said Rene, who did not clarify what that “conflict” involved.

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“This is just the finalized part of it,” Rene said. “I am in agreement with it because I was planning on retiring anyway. It’s not related to COVID. It’s a private matter between myself and Gymnastics Ontario. It doesn’t involve the (Champions Gymnastics) club. Whatever statements Ontario Gymnastics made yesterday were the culmination of everything.”

Rene confirmed his son Etienne, a partner in Champions Gymnastics, will take over as head coach come the new year. Rene added he has prepared his son, who has served as a coach for the past 25 years, for that position.

“I’m in agreement with the suspension but there are still some questions that I have,” said Rene, without clarifying what those questions are. “It’s not something I want to pursue any time in the near future. I just want to get through this COVID crap and get my club on a firm footing.”

Rene said the suspension is “strictly a personal thing” between him and Gymnastics Ontario, and does not affect Champions Gymnastics.

“Our club is a member of Gymnastics Ontario in good standing. We received a letter about that just the other day. Nothing changes in the operation of Champions Gymnastics.”

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“My retirement was planned two years ago when I turned 70. If it hadn’t been for COVID, I would have retired. We wouldn’t be having this conversation. The only reason there’s a sort of sensationalist attachment to this is I run a gymnastics club. If I was CEO of a company and got bought out, this wouldn’t be in the media.”

“It’s not a big thing,” maintained Rene. “They (Gymnastics Ontario) have to put a statement like this out to basically inform all the clubs in Ontario that I’m not a registered member with Gymnastics Ontario, which means I’m not covered by any of their insurance. I can’t just walk out on the floor at a competition. They have to let people know.”

While both Gymnastics Ontario and Rene are elusive in terms of what’s at the root of the lifetime suspension decision, Sandford said in his emailed statement that his organization “is committed to creating and maintaining a safe sport environment.”

“Gymnastics Ontario invites its members and its stakeholders to report to it any behaviour that fails to uphold these values,” Sandford said.