World Figure Skating Championships: sex offender “extremely kind”

The World Figure Skating Championships will begin Monday after a series of controversies, including several influential members of Skate Canada and Patinage Québec supporting former star coach Richard Gauthier during his criminal trial. The newspaper took over the 23 letters of gratitude presented on behalf of the sexual offender.

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“I have witnessed his great financial generosity and the time he dedicates to others, he is extremely kind. “His great qualities have made him a person highly appreciated and respected by the global figure skating community,” wrote Manon Perron, a high-performance consultant for Canada in figure skating and former coach of Joannie Rochette, in a letter dedicated to the judge and presented in court during sentencing remarks for Richard Gauthier.

In the 1980s, taking advantage of his dominance over a young skater of about 14 years old, the former coach bathed with the teenager, showered naked with him, then washed him, before massaging him on a bed and sleeping naked “spooning” with him. athlete. The man’s penis became trapped in the victim. For these actions, Gauthier was found guilty of gross indecency and sexual assault.

In August, to determine Gauthier’s sentence, his lawyer had the court hear six testimonies in his favor, including that of renowned trainer Manon Perron. The defense also presented 23 letters of gratitude to the attacker, hoping to receive clemency from the judge. Josée Bélanger. The lawyer wanted a prison sentence on weekends or at home. Gauthier was eventually sentenced to one year in prison.

Richard Gauthier

Coach Manon Perron chats with Madeline Schizas during training at the Bell Center on March 6.

Photo Agency QMI, JOEL LEMAY

During their appearances before the judge, during their sentencing presentations, all six witnesses confirmed that they were aware of the allegations against Gauthier and the verdict. Some even read the guilty verdict.

“They all made it clear that this in no way changed their opinion of the defendants,” the court documents read.

The victim was shocked to hear all of these supportive testimonies from people she knew and respected.


Everyone praised Gauthier, including choreographer Julie Marcotte, who trained Eric Radford and Vanessa James until the Beijing Olympics. Mr. Radford also supported Gauthier in writing.

“As long as I have known him, his main goal has always been, yes, to create champions, but he went much further: he wanted a better future for athletes as individuals. Athletes are an extension of your family,” M said in his Marcotte.

Former president of Skate Canada and current vice president of the International Skating Union, Benoit Lavoie, defended “his friend” in court and in a letter. He claimed to have consulted with the national federation about the possibility that the attacker could request his reinstatement.

Richard Gauthier

Benoit Lavoie, vice president of the International Skating Union, supported his “friend” Richard Gauthier at the Montreal court last summer.

File photo, Michael Nguyen

“(Gauthier) has experience that could be useful to Skate Canada,” he said.

Other members and leaders also supported the former coach inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame, including Violaine Émard, who serves on Patinage Québec’s board of directors as coaching administrator.

“She doesn’t count her hours when she trains, she has done a lot for the evolution of our sport, not only in Quebec, but around the world,” the coach, who has 40 years of experience, explains in her letter. she years of experience. He is recognized as the best (couples) coach of his generation. I am and we are all very proud of him, for everything he has done for us and our sport. »


Coach and choreographer Jean-Pierre Boulais described Gauthier as “a fair man who always respects others and never judges anyone.

“If I had to look for a coach for my son or daughter, I would definitely choose Richard Gauthier,” he wrote.

Ghislain Briand, coach and international jumping technique expert, who taught Elvis Stojko, Adam Rippon and double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, also praised the attacker.

“It has undoubtedly contributed to increasing the level of excellence of figure skating in Quebec,” we can read.

In her decision to sentence Gauthier to one year in prison, Judge Bélanger stressed that the testimonies “well illustrate the extent to which sexual violence against children can be invisible in the eyes of society.” She recalled how children who have suffered sexual violence can suffer significant consequences.

Richard Gauthier

Eric Radford, in action here at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games with Vanessa James, wrote a letter of thanks presented during presentations on Gauthier’s sentencing.

Archive photo, AFP


For Joëlle Carpentier, doctor in social psychology, this type of support is scandalous, regardless of the sport.

“That means that in our culture, this model of person is considered a good guy. That means it matches our value. What this sends as an organizational message is that if you perform well, then you are a good person. It also sends the message that what you experienced is not serious enough for us to consider in our evaluation of this person. »

“Athletes are already afraid to report,” adds Sylvain Croteau, from Sport’Aide. When they see all that (the scandals, the support), they feel insecure. They don’t make you want to go out and report. Under the pretext of acting and after achieving results, we are willing to close our eyes, to accept, to forgive quite easily. »

Asked about the participation in a criminal case of its members, several of whom work closely with the federation, the general director of Patinage Québec, Any-Claude Dion, reiterated that “it was a personal choice for them. “We ensure that the ethical rules in our sport are respected.”


Some skaters highlight in their letter that Gauthier was like another member of the family, as was the case with former athlete Mervin Tran. He says the former coach was a role model and mentor “who guided him into the person he is today.”

Mr. Croteau does not want to throw stones at athletes.

“Those who have not suffered this type of behavior will surely have extraordinary memories. The coach led them to the promised land of a medal, a championship or a place on the national team. You can’t blame them, when they were young they didn’t know what was right and what was wrong. »

According to meme Carpentier, research shows that fear of retaliation is the main reason why athletes do not report.

“If you see all these people who have weight and influence saying it doesn’t matter, clearly you won’t speak up. In 2024, people who have influence will have to question their role. They must realize that they are the ones who cook the soup in which they bathe. »

Richard Gauthier appealed his case

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