Departing Australian Olympic Committee media director Mike Tancred has declared he leaves the organisation with no regrets after an independent committee investigating bullying claims against him found that he was a “casualty of the crossfire” during a bitter election campaign this year.
As forecast by Fairfax Media a fortnight ago Tancred’s position was ultimately deemed untenable despite having been cleared of bullying allegations and it was announced on Thursday that he would exit as part of an organisational restructure after 18 years with the AOC.
The former television journalist walks away with a pay-out following a tumultuous five months for the Olympic body that began with former AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong going public about a complaint she had lodged about Tancred’s conduct.
Tancred was severely reprimanded and subsequently apologised over a phone conversation last December in which he told de Jong he would “bury” her if she did not drop a separate complaint against Australia’s chef de mission in Rio de Janeiro last year, Kitty Chiller.
De Jong’s revelations emerged a month before the AOC executive election, where the presidency of John Coates was challenged, for the first time in 26 years, by former hockey gold medallist Danni Roche. On Thursday, the findings of an investigation conducted by a committee comprising former High Court Justice Ian Callinan and ex-NSW Supreme Court Judge Greg James into four separate claims made against Tancred were released. It cleared him of bullying and pointed to this year’s election as a contributing factor to the surfacing of allegations and the furore around them.
“We have no doubt that some of the matters have been given emphasis, sometimes undue or excessive emphasis, by reason of and during the course of an election for the office of president of the AOC involving a challenge to the current president who has been in that role for many years,” the report said.
“The election attracted a great deal of publicity. Each of Mr Coates and his challenger had his and her supporters, including prominent columnists and commentators in the print and electronic media … it seems to us that in some respects Mr Tancred was a casualty of the crossfire between the respective camps.”
Tancred said on Thursday: “I did what any loyal employee or executive should do. I supported the head of the organisation. I have no regrets about doing that.
“The independent committee has said I was caught in the crossfire. My reaction to that is that I agree I was collateral damage”.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll attributed Tancred’s departure to a restructure devised after taking into account a damning review of its workplace culture by the Ethics Centre.
In a statement Coates said of Tancred: “Mike has worked tirelessly for the AOC and the athletes in the Australian Olympic team since 1999. He has strived to build and protect the Olympic brand particularly through his leadership and development of the AOC website and education program.
“He understands that National Olympic Committees must preserve their independence and autonomy and was never backward in supporting me publicly to ensure our politicians and others are aware of this essential requirement for recognition by the IOC.”