Sexual assault trial of Canada's former national women's gymnastics coach begins Monday

A sexual assault trial involving the former coach of the Canadian national women's gymnastics team begins Monday in Sarnia, Ont.

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Dave Brubaker, 55, is facing multiple sexual offences spanning an eight-year period from 2000 to 2007. The allegations stem from a series of incidents involving Brubaker and a female who he was coaching and was under the age of 16 during at least some of the alleged offences.

The charges include sexual assault, sexual interference, sexual exploitation and invitation to sexual touching.

Brubaker is a well-known figure in the Canadian and international gymnastics community, serving as coach for Canada's national women's gymnastics teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. He's been the director of the Bluewater Gymnastics Club in Sarnia since 1985.

Brubaker's arrest last December sent shock waves through the Canadian gymnastics community. Gymnastics Canada, in a statement issued at the time, said it was "shocked and deeply troubled by the news."

"Our first priority within Gymnastics Canada is always the safety of our athletes," said Richard Crépin, the former chair of the board of directors. "Sport should be a safe place for everyone, and we're working hard to ensure that we have the policies and procedures, as well as the education and resources, in place to ensure the safety of all of our participants."

Placed on leave

After police laid charges, Brubaker was immediately placed on administrative leave from Gymnastics Canada. The Bluewater Gymnastics board also placed him on indefinite unpaid leave and said he would no longer be allowed on the property.

Brubaker is currently out on bail and restricted from associating with the complainant, as well as working or volunteering with anyone under the age of 16. The judge-only trial is expected to wrap up on Wednesday.

Canada's Kyle Shewfelt captured gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and is now a coach in Calgary. (Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press)Calgary’s Kyle Shewfelt, a 2004 Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics and now a coach, has known Brubaker for years and said he was in “total shock” when he first learned of the charges.

"I think that the gymnastics community is holding its breath, waiting to see what comes forth," Shewfelt said, based on conversations he's had with other athletes and coaches.

"I think there are a lot of people still who don't know where to stand on this. And I think that it's going to take a judge's verdict in order for people to make a decision and a commitment to how they move forward."

Brubaker isn't the only Canadian gymnastics coach charged with sexual offences this year.

In January, Scott McFarlane, a gymnastics coach from Ottawa, was charged with sexual assault and child luring after a 15-year-old girl went to Peel Regional Police with allegations of multiple sex-related incidents alleged to have happened over a four-year period while MacFarlane was working as a coach at Manjak's Gymnastics in Mississauga, Ont.

And in May, Edmonton-based coach Michel Arsenault was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting three former students in Quebec in the 1980s and 1990s. His trial is scheduled for some time next year. He has also been suspended by Gymnastics Canada.

The trial of Michel Arsenault begins next year. He is facing four charges of assault and three charges of sexual assault. (Radio-Canada Sports)

The charges against Brubaker also came at time when the sport of gymnastics was already under intense scrutiny. The trial of former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was in full swing, complete with harrowing abuse stories from more than 150 victims. Nassar eventually admitted to molesting some of the U.S.'s top gymnasts over many years and was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexual assault and other charges.

Shewfelt​ doesn't mince his words when talking about the recent rash of arrests in gymnastics.

"The deviants are always going to have a plan," Shewfelt said. "Let's have zero tolerance. Let's have black-and-white policies."

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