Judge denies Kaillie Humphries’ release from Bobsleigh Canada to compete for U.S.

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Three-time Olympic medallist Kaillie Humphries has been denied release from Bobsleigh Canada by a Calgary judge who found the governing body has the discretion to decide whether to allow an athlete to compete for another country.

“She’s obviously very disappointed,” said Humphries’ lawyer Jeffrey Rath after the decision was handed down.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Charlene Anderson ruled Humphries could have initiated a dispute resolution process earlier through Bobsleigh Canada but said she “instead chose to wait and bring this application on the eve of U.S. push trials.”

But Rath said Humphries, who has been living and training in San Diego, Calif., will still attend the U.S. push trials as a guest this week. 

The lawyer said they’re “not giving up the fight” and called Bobsleigh Canada’s conduct “unreasonable and unsportsmanlike.” 

Humphries, 34, married American bobsledder Travis Armbruster last Saturday, which would let her represent the U.S. if she is released by Canada.

Under international rules, Humphries required the release by Sept. 30 to be able to compete for the U.S. this season, though an appeal is possible.

‘We want Kaillie in our program’

After the judge’s decision, a Bobsleigh Canada spokesperson said outside the courtroom that Humphries is still welcome to compete for Canada.

“Our mandate is to develop world Olympic champions, that’s what we do, Kaillie is obviously a world Olympic champion,” said Bobsleigh Canada high performance director Chris Le Bihan.

“We want Kaillie in our program. Kaillie is obviously going to be a threat in the next Olympics and there’s nothing we want to see more than Canadians standing on the podium.”

Along with former brakewoman Heather Moyse, Humphries won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in women’s bobsleigh in 2010 and 2014. After Moyse left the sport, Humphries added a bronze in 2018 with new teammate Phylicia George. Humphries also won consecutive world championships in 2012 and ’13, and World Cup season titles in 2013, ’14 and ’16. She captured the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canadian athlete of the year in 2014.

Humphries has also made headlines for fighting for gender equality in her sport.

Jeffrey Rath, who is Kaillie Humphries’ lawyer in her fight to be released from Bobsleigh Canada, says Humphries will still attend the U.S. push trials as a guest this week. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

Humphries is suing Bobsleigh Canada for $45 million for blocking her release from the team and breaching its contract relating to athlete and coach code of conduct.

She has been at odds with the governing body of her sport for years and filed a harassment complaint a year ago alleging she’d been verbally and emotionally abused by her former coach. 

She alleges that Bobsleigh Canada head coach Todd Hays verbally and mentally abused her during the 2017-18 season.

Humphries filed the complaint with Bobsleigh Canada saying she no longer felt safe training and competing with Hays coaching her and could no longer compete for the team.

Humphries took last season off from competition awaiting a resolution as the sport organization conducted its own internal investigation.

Tuesday’s decision comes after injunction arguments were heard Monday morning.

During those arguments, lawyers for Bobsleigh Canada and Humphries told the judge that the year-long investigation had been completed just days earlier with no evidence of harassment found.

Bobsleigh Canada lawyer Arif Chowdhury argued Humphries has received 15 years’ worth of mostly publicly funded training designed “to create international and Olympic champions” and that the written release is required in order to to prevent athletes from taking advantage of one country’s training program and competing for another. 

Rath argued Humphries’ contract had expired and said the governing body had made it clear she was not welcome to compete for Bobsleigh Canada.

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