The Age, News 24/03/2017, picture by Justin McManus. Danni Roche, who is challenging John Coates for the AOC presidency. Photo: Justin McManusJohn Coates’ right-hand man Mike Tancred is the subject of another formal bullying complaint, after he allegedly harangued a young female staffer who took two days off work at the Beijing Olympics after miscarrying her baby.
Mr Tancred denies any wrongdoing.
The new allegation comes as Olympic supremo John Coates faces a board meeting late on Wednesday at which he will be asked to explain his version of events on a series of bullying allegations and the AOC’s financial arrangements.
Mr Coates is under pressure to keep his job of 27 years, as a rival candidate for the presidency, former Hockeyroo Danni Roche, campaigns to unseat him.
Mr Coates wrote on Monday to all the sports that have a vote at the May 6 election rejecting suggestions that there was “a culture of ‘bullying’ or a lack of action in response”.
“We believe the current AOC processes for responding to complaints are impartial and rigorous. That said, like our athletes, we are always looking to improve and evolve our processes,” he wrote.
The latest allegation concerns a young woman who told Fairfax Media she had “witnessed numerous outbursts from Mike Tancred, which usually contained foul and derogatory language towards members of staff and external parties”.
“On occasion I was on the receiving end,” she said.
In the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics she miscarried her child in Beijing and, following consultation with the team medical director, had two days bed rest.
“After that I worked the full duration of the Games, including the long hours required,” she said.
She had been fully cleared medically to go to Beijing and work at the Olympics.
On her return to Australia the woman was diagnosed with a staph infection and doctors told her she needed further treatment.
She said when she presented Mr Tancred with a doctor’s certificate, he took her into a meeting room, one-on-one, where he “questioned my commitment and the validity of my doctor’s certificate and he made me feel pressured to tell him the details of my illness”, she told Fairfax Media.
“Straight afterwards, I put a formal complaint in to … human resources, as I felt harassed by Mike’s behaviour, both personally and professionally. From that moment forwards, Mike avoided talking to me and generally avoided me in the office. I felt there was little alternative but to leave a job that I loved.”
Mr Tancred denied the woman had made a formal complaint against him, and denied bullying her, saying, “I look forward to my day in court”.
In a file note he made at the time he wrote: “Despite this tragic mishap, the circumstances do not change. [The woman], in my opinion, must work as a member of the Team. I cannot make concessions for her”.
Mr Tancred told Fairfax Media that he did not know the woman was pregnant before Beijing, and would never have allowed her to go if he had known. She had not initially told him about the miscarriage, only that she had suffered a stomach upset.
When he spoke to her back in Sydney, it was a “normal chat in a meeting room,” he said, at which he said he was “concerned for her” because her work had “fallen away”.
Fairfax Media has also obtained documents showing Mr Coates told a major sponsor, swimwear manufacturer Speedo, to “butt out” of a sponsorship discussion in 2004, saying they were “not worth the problem”.
The letters relate to a dispute between the AOC and Speedo over whether Ian Thorpe could wear a non-Speedo swimming suit at the Athens games – when Australian swimming was at the height of its powers.
Mr Coates threw down an ultimatum to the company, which had spent millions of dollars sponsoring every swimming team since the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne: “If you would like to withdraw from your sponsorship please indicate now … if you wish to continue then please butt out of what will be an AOC decision [on branding]”.
When Speedo said it had no intention of withdrawing its sponsorship, Mr Coates replied: “frankly, in the context of our total sponsorships … you are not worth the problem”.
It would “need to significantly increase the dollars and accept all of our terms without question … I will not be meeting with you and if you like to involve your lawyers go ahead”.
Speedo marketing director at the time, Tim Lees, said after that, “we just went around him”.
“It’s very difficult to work with a guy like that … when we saw him later, he’d act as if we’d never met, didn’t know you; you weren’t important.”
Mr Coates did not respond to a series of questions.