The Australian Olympic Committee’s long-standing media head Mike Tancred has stood down as an investigation into his behaviour towards former chief executive Fiona de Jong continues.
Fairfax Media has revealed that Tancred, a close ally of AOC president John Coates, has been the target of a number of complaints, formal and informal, from staff, including de Jong. Several have spoken publicly in recent days. Tancred, who has stood down until the resolution of the investigation, has denied any wrongdoing.
Coates is embroiled in an acrimonious fight to keep the position he has held for 27 years in the face of a challenge from former Olympic hockey player Danni Roche and has been accused by de Jong of tolerating bullying within the organisation. Coates wrote to all the sports that have a vote at the May 6 election rejecting suggestions there was a “culture of ‘bullying’ or a lack of action in response”.
The AOC is set to hold a phone hook-up from 6pm during which Coates will be asked to explain his version of events.
De Jong, who departed the AOC in December, lodged a complaint to Coates about another AOC executive accusing her of leaking board discussions to the press, which she vehemently denied. She said Tancred rang her within minutes of making the confidential complaint to Coates.
“He said, ‘Fiona, withdraw the complaint or I will bury you,’ ” she told Fairfax Media.
She claimed Tancred then issued a personal threat, which she would not detail, except for saying he was “abusive and threatening to me and would have affected my family life”.
“The nature of his conduct could best be characterised as blackmail and intimidation,” she said. “Over the course of my career I’ve been exposed to plenty of heated discussions, and poor choice of words or bad language in the workplace, but this went way beyond that. It’s one thing to take me on, but quite another to involve my family.”
Tancred said he “denied the allegations made against me”.
“I have made no comment to any of the allegations because I am bound by a confidentially agreement which I signed,” he said.
“Ms de Jong also signed that agreement but breached it over the weekend.”
Fairfax Media on Wednesday detailed the case of a young former staff member who claimed to have been told she lacked commitment after she took time off following a miscarriage during the Beijing Olympics. The woman said she had witnessed “numerous outbursts from Mike Tancred, which usually contained foul and derogatory language towards members of staff and external parties”.