Buckets of Data

June 10, 1997

Toronto Sun: June 10, 1997: The Last Word

Filed under: Marsden — bucketsdata @ 12:10 am

The Toronto SunJune 10, 1997, Tuesday, Final EDITIONSECTION: SPORTS, Pg. 86HEADLINE: THE LAST WORDBYLINE: STEVE SIMMONSThey met, innocently enough, at a British Columbia swim club in 1990. He was 22, a young coach just starting out. She was 15, a teenaged swimmer with wide eyes and an engaging smile.No one then could see the trouble that would come from Liam Donnelly coaching Rachel Marsden.No one then could see how two lives would be turned upside down, with their names in the headlines, a coaching job lost and a sordid sexual scandal of moral and ethical proportions that has shocked the good people of Vancouver.Liam Donnelly was fired as swim coach of Simon Fraser University on May 23 after being accused of “date rape,” a complaint made by Marsden. He says nothing of the kind ever happened. He says it with authority. The decision to remove him smacks of political correctness, overreaction and academic myopia.The story Donnelly tells is chilling and frightening and it also is important.He was coaching the university swim team when Rachel Marsden, on academic scholarship, decided to try out in 1993. They had met before, worked together and there were problems, swimming related, left unresolved.But this time it was different. This time, Donnelly says, Marsden wanted to become part of his life. This is his version of what happened, and why he believes he has been wronged. This is his story.WATCHINGAfter quitting the swim team after only a few weeks of training, Marsden began showing up at practices anyhow. At early practices. She was there at 5: 30 in the morning, just watching, watching.”She began dropping by more and more frequently,” Donnelly says. “Began sending e-mail, cards, and flowers.”Five times she showed up uninvited at Donnelly’s home, he alleges. He thought it was just a college kid with a crush on him. He thought he could handle it.But the whole situation got out of hand.”I would like to meet with you sometime soon for something very erotic,” Marsden wrote in one of her explicit e-mails to him, Donnelly says. “I think the best way to meet would be if we were to go somewhere private … I’ll be wearing a black overcoat and stiletto heels … I don’t think words will be very necessary so I suggest that you just relax and let me undress you, touch you …”Donnelly ignored the invitation and attempted to ignore Marsden. But it kept happening. After returning from a swim meet in Europe, the word at Simon Fraser was that he and Marsden were having an affair.CONDOMSAnd then other things started to happen, things he can’t completely explain. One day, his car, in the university parking lot, was littered with condoms. Another day, he began receiving Playboy magazine in the mail, even though he had not subscribed to it. Another day, he would find provocative photos of Marsden slipped under his office door, photos that have since been passed on to Vancouver newspapers. Another day, the phone would ring and someone at the other end of the line would hang up.And after that, a poster advertising phone sex was put on a campus bulletin board: He recognized the phone number, it was his.Donnelly then went to the harassment office at Simon Fraser and filed a complaint. They told him to begin documenting the odd activities. Marsden filed a complaint at the same office, saying that Donnelly had sexually assaulted her.After some legal advice, Donnelly dropped his complaint and chose not to participate in Marsden’s complaint. So instead he went to the police. And then Marsden went to the police. In either case, no charges were laid.With nowhere else to turn, Donnelly went back to the harassment office at the university. They told him it was too late. The time limit, apparently, had run out.And soon after, his time at the university was up. After a five-day hearing – at which Donnelly chose not to appear, apparently on the advice of a lawyer – a university panel recommended that Donnelly be fired. The panel’s report has not been made public nor will it be. Later, the university held a news conference to announce it was reconfirming its decision to fire Donnelly. The university fired him and then announced he was still fired.”Why do you do that if you’re not defensive about what already happened?” said Loryl Russell, Donnelly’s new lawyer.You do it because you are rigid and authoritative.Steve Simmons can be reached via e-mail at ssimmons@sunpub.com

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