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Whitfield being sued for his defence of Paula Findlay

Olympian and Canadian Icon Simon Whitfield (with Kevin Mackinnon)
Olympian and Canadian Icon Simon Whitfield (with Kevin Mackinnon)

According to the Times Colonist, Olympic medallist Simon Whitfield of Victoria is being sued for defamation by a triathlon coach over a post on Twitter in support of Paula Findlay and her performance at the London Olympics in 2012.

Patrick Kelly, head coach of the Hong Kong Sports Institute and a former coach of Findlay, says Whitfield defamed him in a Twitter message sent out Aug. 4, 2012, after Findlay finished last in the women’s triathlon.

Whitfield has been praised for standing up for Findlay and airing the details of a coaching program he believes did not adequately prepare her. His support was welcomed by many Canadians who had watched, heartbroken, as a tearful Findlay crossed the line, having given what she could and desperate not to disappoint her country. As a mentor and ambassador for the sport, Whitfield was, according to many, standing up for athlete’s rights.

In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Kelly says the post on Twitter conveyed the message that he was “totally incompetent” and had incompetently trained and coached Findlay, causing or significantly contributing to her performance.

The tweet also suggested Kelly mismanaged Findlay’s health, including her hip injury, prior to the Olympics and that he “dishonourably abandoned” her just before the Games, says Kelly. There were 46 retweets of the allegedly defamatory tweet, according to the lawsuit.

“Each of those meanings is false, malicious and defamatory of and concerning the plaintiff,” says the lawsuit.

Kelly was Findlay’s coach for years before the London Olympics but stopped coaching her in June 2012, according to the suit. While being coached by Kelly, Findlay suffered a hip injury in July 2011, says the suit.

Kelly is seeking unspecified general, aggravated and exemplary damages. He also wants an injunction to restrain Whitfield from any further publication of the alleged defamation and an order requiring him to remove the allegedly defamatory expression from any electronic database including Twitter.

When we spoke to Whitfield early afternoon on August 8, 2014, he had not yet been served.