Swim coach Matt Bell, convicted of sexual exploitation of a teenage athlete, has been officially banned for life by Swimming Canada just over two years after his original arrest.
Bell was arrested back in November of 2015. At the time, he was the high performance coach and CEO of Ajax Aquatic Club in Ontario and had just finished a stint on Canada’s World Junior Championship coaching staff during the summer of 2015. Swimming Canada immediately suspended Bell indefinitely and began a process of “contacting athletes and parents who have had interactions with Mr. Bell in connection with Swimming Canada national teams, tours and programs,” per an official statement.
Now, 25 months later, that investigation has wrapped up, with an independent panel handing out a lifetime ban from all Swimming Canada activities. The full Swimming Canada statement is below.
In between the arrest and the lifetime ban, Bell was charged with sexual assault, sexual exploitation and luring a person under 18 years. The Ajax club went under in November of 2015, shortly after the arrest and charges. Bell pleaded guilty in August of 2016, admitting that he’d had sexual contact and exchanged sexually charged text messages with the victim in 2010 and 2011 when she was 16 and he was 30.
In November of 2016, he was sentenced to seven months in jail. Swimming Canada released a statement at the time reiterating that it was “closely following” the case and that Bell would be subject to Swimming Canada’s disciplinary process “at a future date to be determined.” That date has now arrived, about a year after Bell’s jail sentence was handed down.
Here is Swimming Canada’s full statement:
OTTAWA – A Swimming Canada disciplinary tribunal has suspended coach Matt Bell of Ajax, Ont., for life.
Swimming Canada took immediate action against Bell on Nov. 11, 2015, when informed of criminal charges of sexual assault, sexual exploitation and four counts of luring a person under 18 years. The former High Performance Coach and CEO of Ajax Swimming was suspended indefinitely.
Bell was sentenced on Nov. 7, 2016 to seven months in jail, which includes the addition of his name to the national sex offender registry, and a subsequent two years probation.
Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi then filed a formal complaint under the organization’s Harassment Policy. Due the nature and severity of the infraction (in part as evidenced by the criminal convictions) Bell will be suspended from all Swimming Canada activities for life, effective immediately.
“Swimming Canada is satisfied with the outcome of this independent panel,” El-Awadi said. “We respect the decision and it sends a message that our policy is zero tolerance of sexual assault and harassment.”
Due to the incident being harassment, and in the interest of protecting any victim, Swimming Canada will keep all other information relating to this case (and obtained during this process) confidential.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure every individual can pursue his or her potential in a safe environment,” El-Awadi added.