Former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong denied Thursday allegations that he physically abused First Nations elementary school students in Burns Lake where he had been a physical education instructor.
Reading a statement at a mid-afternoon press conference in Vancouver, Furlong further denied allegations of sexual abuse which he said had apparently been made within the previous hour.
"As a result of inaccurate reporting, I feel that my character has been recklessly challenged and I have no choice now but to proceed with legal action," Furlong said.
According to a story published Thursday in a Vancouver weekly newspaper, The Georgia Straight, and posted on its website, eight former students of Furlong's have filed affidavits alleging physical and mental abuse.
They claim he regularly slapped and kicked them and used racial slurs.
The affidavits were filed with Burns Lake lawyer Warren Chapman, whose office declined to comment on instructions from his clients. A search of civil and criminal court records shows no legal action has been filed against Furlong as a result of the allegations.
"I want you to know I categorically deny absolutely any wrongdoing and I believe that the RCMP, in looking into this matter, will discredit the complaint entirely because it just did not happen," Furlong said.
B.C. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said in a statement that Mounties "are aware of the allegations involving John Furlong and are investigating. At this time we will not be providing further comment."
Furlong immigrated from Ireland to Prince George in 1974, to become head of the physical education program at Prince George College, later O'Grady Catholic High School.
But according to the story in the Straight, Furlong arrived five years previously, in 1969, as an Oblate Frontier Apostle missionary, and taught physical education at Immaculata elementary school, which was never mentioned in his memoir Patriot Hearts.
In giving his statement, Furlong said he omitted that fact because he didn't think it was important.
"My time in Burns Lake was fairly brief and fairly uneventful," Furlong said. "I went back to Ireland and came to Canada years later as a landed immigrant."
He went on to say he has friends in Burns Lake and has been there many times since.
"I have spoken there. I visited the community with a First Nations delegation prior to the Olympics, and brought the Olympic Torch Relay through the community, all without incident," he said.
The story was written by Laura Robinson. According to an online biography, she is a former member of Canadas national cycling team and a former Canadian champion in rowing who became the first journalist in Canada to write about sexual abuse in sport.
Books she has written include "Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canadas National Sport" and Black Tights: Women, Sport and Sexuality.
Furlong indicated he is familiar with Robinson.
"Having experienced this reporter on many occasions in the past this feels very much like a personal vendetta," he said.
He went on to say that blackmail may have been a motive for the allegations from one of his accusers.
"And finally let me just say on the very first occasion that this was brought to my attention prior to the Olympics I was advised for that for a payment it could be made to go away. And as such, I reported this to the police."
in the story, Robinson said Furlong, through e-mails from his lawyer, Marvin Storrow, has denied the allegations but provided no answer about the "five unexplained years, from 1969 to 1974," when he was a Frontier Apostle missionary.
On Thursday, Furlong said he is "very disappointed, in spite of numerous written cautions, by the reporters shocking lack of diligence in researching the article."
In a statement, The Georgia Straight stood by the story, saying it was backed up with eight sworn affidavits and that Storrow did not make Furlong available to respond to Robinson's questions.
"She also attempted without success to reach Mr. Furlong through his publisher, Douglas and McIntyre. Ms. Robinson was told that Mr. Furlong had 'nothing more' to say to her," the newspaper said.