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A largely anonymous group of current and former Canadian bobsleigh and skeleton athletes want immediate action, not more talk.

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Specifically, they want the resignations of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton board president Sarah Storey and high-performance director Chris Le Bihan, identified by the athletes as the people most responsible for troubling issues of safety, governance, transparency and culture.

BCS and its funding partners want a resolution of the conflict, and at least one of those partners, Own The Podium, believes the way forward is mediation.

“OTP provided the leadership to suggest that BCS initiate the mediation,” said Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer of OTP. “We feel that’s certainly an important step to try and ensure that the various parties are heard and understood, and this is a first step to try and resolve some of the conflict that exists.”

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In an open letter published earlier this week, the athlete group rejected mediation.

“BCS’ proposal for more meetings and more internal investigation is a recurring theme that we cannot accept. Your decision to have group mediation with the athletes is outright rejected,” the letter stated.

However, Michelle Simpson, a mediator attached to the Sport Dispute Resolution Center of Canada, has been retained and on Monday conducted a meeting with BCS board members, including athlete representatives Cody Sorensen and John Worden. Sorensen did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday while Worden could not be reached.

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“The mediator’s first step will be to try and find a way that the athletes can organize themselves so they can participate in the mediation,” said Merklinger. “That’s what’s happening as we speak.”

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Members of the athlete group said it includes about 80 former and current sliders. Not all current BCS athletes are among them. Merklinger said the “key constituency” is current BCS athletes, but the organization can also learn from the experiences of its alumni.

Most Canadian winter sport organizations will soon be involved in debriefs with OTP, the organization that makes funding recommendations to Sport Canada based on medal potential at world championships and Olympic Games. High-performance directors, coaches, some athletes and other staff are typically involved in those sessions, which are often guided by independent facilitators.

“The debriefs are very important,” said Merklinger. “We’re working with every winter sport to assess the last four years, assess performance at the Olympic and Paralympic Games and then look at what do the next four and eight years look like. What is the depth of athletes with medal potential in each sport? What are the plans specifically between now and 2026?

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“We can certainly proceed with that in a very robust way and it will be a focus on the current technical leader and the coaches and the athlete pool that is currently in place within BCS. The timing of that will be critical. They’ll be in the midst of that planning now,” Merklinger said.

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“The high-performance program is not going to come to a standstill because of the current situation. But we also know this kind of circumstance we are dealing with right now is not optimal, so we are trying to find a way to improve the situation and mediation was our suggestion.”

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