Bertrand Charest, a former coach for the Canadian national junior ski team, the Quebec Ski Team, Team Laurentians and the Mont-Tremblant Ski Club, was convicted of 37 charges related to sexual assault in June and sentenced to 12 years in prison on Friday. Seven years and 10 months remain in his sentence after subtracting time served.
According to CBC, Charest, 52, was found guilty of charges including sexual assault and sexual exploitation for the abuse of athletes he coached between 1991 and 1998. The nine victims who came forward were girls and young women between ages 12 and 18 at the time of the offenses. He has been detained since being arrested in March 2015.
Quebec court Judge Sylvain Lépine did not hold back when discussing Alpine Canada’s failure to protect its athletes. He said the organization chose to close its eyes to what the athletes were saying about Charest and failed in its role as protector, according to CBC.
In a statement, the Chair of the Board of Alpine Canada Martha Hall Findlay, said, “Today, after a long and very difficult time for the victims and families, Bertrand Charest was sentenced to 12 years in prison, for things that he did over 20 years ago. But at the time, instead of being there for the athletes, instead of providing support when these activities were discovered, Alpine Canada put itself first, not the victims. In doing so, Alpine Canada failed them. More than 20 years on, I want to say, personally and on behalf of Alpine Canada, that we are profoundly sorry.”
Findlay said Alpine Canada has since changed its policies and procedures to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. It is issues like this that lead to the creation for SafeSport, an effort between U.S. Ski & Snowboard and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Opened this past March, the program was born out of a need for an independent body that could receive claims of abuse and investigate them outside of any influence or conflict of interest from a particular team, individual, or organization.