Vancouver Whitecaps' executive chairman John Furlong enjoys corporate support while he battles claims that he abused aboriginal students in Burns Lake after he arrived as a Catholic missionary in 1969.
Irish-born Furlong, who was the chief executive of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, emphatically denied the report in the Georgia Straight on September 27. Laura Robinson based her story on allegations contained in eight affidavits by people who say they were Furlong's ex-students. The RCMP is investigating those allegations.
Furlong said he would sue the Georgia Straight and Robinson for defamation. Robinson said she would countersue after Furlong suggested she holds a grudge against him.
After the 2010 Games, Furlong was appointed chairman of Own the Podium, the taxpayer-backed body that funds Olympic athletes.
"There will be no change to John's position as chairman of Own the Podium," said spokesman Chris Dornan. "OTP considers John a man with the utmost integrity and ethical behaviour. He is the leader of our organization and has OTP's complete and full support through this difficult time."
Whitecaps' media-shy principal owner Greg Kerfoot hired Furlong in April. In the wake of the accusations, Furlong took a hiatus from the Whitecaps, president Bob Lenarduzzi said in an October 2 interview with Dan Russell on CKNW's SportsTalk.
"He's taking time to digest what's going on and hasn't been at the office," Lenarduzzi said. "For us, we're allowing him to have his space and I'm sure at the appropriate time there will be a rconnection. For the time being we just carry on as is."
The September 27 news conference, at which Furlong took no questions, was held at the Landing, a Gastown heritage office building where the Whitecaps and Twentyten Group are both located. Twentyten Group founder Andrea Shaw, a former VANOC marketing vice-president, organized the news conference. In an October 2011 BIV profile, Shaw credited Furlong for being her "greatest coach" through a successful bout with colon cancer in late 2010.
Furlong is on Canadian Tire's 16-member board of directors. Senior vice-president of corporate affairs Duncan Fulton told BIV: "John is an excellent and valued member of our board and continues to be so."
Fellow Canadian Tire director Graham Savage is chairman of the seven-man Whistler Blackcomb board. Furlong was appointed to the 2010 Olympic venue's board when it reorganized as a public company in fall 2010.
"We are aware of the allegations concerning Mr. Furlong. Mr. Furlong continues to be a director of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc.," said senior manager of investor relations Jeremy Roche.
Furlong remains listed as chairman of Rocky Mountaineer Railtours on its website. The luxury railway's spokeswoman Nancy Dery said, "Yes, he has our full support."
Furlong used his 2011-published memoir, Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country, as a springboard to inspirational speaking engagements for which he charges $20,000 an appearance.
He is scheduled to speak October 13 at the Alberta Sports Development Centre banquet in Grande Prairie, Alberta, after a reception hosted by the president's council of Grande Prairie Regional College. Organizers did not respond to BIV, but both events remain advertised on the respective organizations' websites.
Furlong's residency in Burns Lake was not disclosed in Patriot Hearts.
The book's only reference to his arrival in Canada is in 1974 through Edmonton.
In an October 2 statement on his website, Furlong claimed he "treated everyone in a fair, appropriate manner and at no time unlawfully or harmfully." •