“It’s like a script”: The former track star talks about the coach’s years of training

“It’s like a script”: The former track star talks about the coach’s years of training


Mary Jane Richards closed her eyes and recalled the feeling of running.

“I just think I’m flying,” she said.

In the 1990s, Richards was the cross-country champion of Ontario and Canada for three consecutive years. She was the first person to cross the finish line in almost every major competition she participated in. She has an international ranking.

But when she crashed, it was not the injury that disappointed her.

Instead, Richards said, it was a progressive modification of her running coach, Peter Des Brisay—at first it was similar to a father-daughter relationship, but it crossed the boundaries, including inappropriate massage, explicitness Emails and sex.

Richards, 44, still maintains athleticism-but running is no longer part of her rule.

“This is intertwined with trauma,” she said. “The trajectory looks like I will eventually participate in the Olympics [and then] Due to the abuse, the whole thing fell apart. “

Mary Anne Richards and Peter Des Brisay pose in this teenage track and field competition. (Submitted by Mary Anne Richards)

A “father image”

Richards was only 13 years old when Des Brisay became an important part of her life.

As her coach, Des Brisay was her tutor at Bell High School in Ottawa from grade 9 to graduation. He is a “father figure,” she said, and they have been very close when she was a teenager.

At some point, the connection went from comfort to confusion to attractiveness. But the love she thinks, Richards now says, is an abuse of power-the result of years of modification by Debrisa.

Des Brisay, 59, has not been charged with any crime, but he is currently suspended from teaching and coaching.

Ontario Teachers College launched an investigation in 2019 after receiving Richards’s complaint and has issued Details the notice of hearing against his allegations.

Des Brisay was not accused of sexual abuse by the college, but was regarded as “shameful, disgraceful and unprofessional” because this was the legal language used in the 1990s.

If found guilty, Des Brisay may lose his teaching certificate.

CBC tried to contact Des Brisay to understand his story. He did not respond.


For decades, Richards has kept the secret of what really happened to her coach, only telling a few close friends.

But she began to realize that if she did not reveal the truth, she would never be held accountable.

“I thought I had this kind of’extramarital affairs’.” It was my fault, right? I got everything that was coming, and I lost everything,” she said in tears.

If she thought it was an affair, it was because Des Brisay herself used these words in an email in 1997, printed them out and hid them in a box in Richards’s parents’ house.

In an e-mail shared by Richards and CBC, Desbrese said that they had a “going all out extramarital affair.” He wrote that he shouldn’t let it go, “I take full responsibility for this, and I’m sorry.”

Mary Jane Richards participated in track and field competitions in the 1990s when she was a student at Bell High School in Ottawa. (Submitted by George Atkin)


When Richards joined Bell’s cross-country team in 1990, she had primitive talent and a pair of old tennis shoes.

She said that it was Des Brisay who saw her potential.

“I have a great adult who happened to be a very popular teacher and an amazing athlete, an amazing coach, who thought I deserved that kind of attention and speciality,” she recalled.

My training, my nutrition, my sleep… everything is up to him. “——Mary Jane Richards

They run together every day. Intensive training makes her stronger and faster. Richards was invited to her coach’s home and even became friends with his wife.

Although she remembered that time as “idyllic,” Richards said she now sees it as part of the beauty process.

“I voluntarily surrendered my power of agency for myself and my life,” she said. “My training, my nutrition, my sleep… everything is up to him.”

Richards said that her close relationship with Debrisa became normalized to the point where no one doubted it. But the training paid off: all the first place medals on her neck became heavier and heavier, and by the 11th grade, she had already qualified for the world championships.

She said: “Peter started lobbying the Canadian track team to participate in the competition.” “I think this is very rare.”

Worrying intimacy

Citizens of Ottawa interviewed the pair before heading to Spain in March 1993. Debrice told reporters that he was “her only coach” and felt that he should accompany Richards, “so that she can get the best performance.”

But his appearance caused some consternation. Christine Marvin said that he was a teammate of Richards at the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club and also participated in the World Series.

“He is not the national team coach. Why did he come in? Our coach is not coming,” Marvin still wants to know.

We may think or hope that nothing unpleasant will happen.–George Atkin

Some adults also have doubts about this relationship, including George Atkin, who attended the conference as a photographer for the Canadian track team.

“She was in the coach’s room…she was not with the rest of us at the time,” Atkin said. “We may think or hope that nothing unpleasant will happen.”

“No one is allowed [to have] Close the door,” Marvin added. “This is a policy. If the coach is in the room, the door is always open. “

A coach who participated in the national game with Debris and Richards said that he also suspects that something inappropriate has happened.

Ray Elric said that when Richards was with him, he told Desbrese to “keep the fucking door open.”

Elrick doesn’t know if anyone has ever reported Des Brisay to a school, running club or Canadian Athletics Games. But he didn’t.

Mary Anne Richards and Peter Des Brisay hug in one of her track and field games. (submitted)

Richards was 16 at the time, and he said that during this trip, things in Debrisa will change forever.

She would be with him in his room, lying “completely naked” on her back, and she said the massage included her breasts and buttocks.

When they got dressed, other things happened.

“I lay on him, he put his hand on my ass, and then pulled me into his arms… we kissed,” Richards recalled. “Then he said,’I can’t do this.'”

She was ranked 43rd in the world in that competition, but Richards said she confused and disturbed Spain.

‘Hook is too deep’

For the next three years, they continued to train together. She said he has a lot of control, including the intimidating boy she has dated.

Ian Rapsey, one of Richards’s former high school boyfriends at Bell, said Des Brisey is always around.

“As a 16- or 17-year-old kid, you don’t necessarily question these things. But you have enough emotional intelligence to say,’Hey, this seems a bit too personal,’ or’The hook is too deep,'” he said .

Des Brisay taught Richards biology in the final year of high school, when another line was crossed.

Richards said that the two went from flirting to kissing and then making love.

“I once thought, well, maybe he just accidentally got too close to me, such as emotional intimacy, and just made a terrible mistake,” she said.

“The more stories I hear about other teachers and coaches doing this kind of thing, the more similar the stories are. Like, I don’t want to say, it’s almost like a script.”

According to Ontario Teachers College, members who have sex with students-regardless of their age or consent-are “violating professional, ethical and legal parameters” and any such relationship “will be considered Sexual abuse.”

‘I’m terrified’

The end of Richards’ running career will be sudden and painful.

In the fall of 1996, Richards, who was only 19 years old, received a full sports scholarship and went to the University of Wisconsin.

Des Brisay keep in touch. Richards said the couple would have phone sex, and Desbrese would send a “graphic email” from his school board account.

But in her second semester, Des Brisay cut contact.

Richards said that Debrisa’s sudden loss of contact caused her world to fall apart. She told her former running teammate Marvin what happened.

“I was terrified,” Marvin recalled, who is now a teacher in Vancouver. “It is not good for someone to be put in that situation, especially when it is an authority figure.”

As for Richards, she fell into deep depression.

“I really wanted to commit suicide. I bought sleeping pills,” she recalled. “I am weak.”

She quit running, left the university, and moved to her home in Ottawa. She will never participate in cross-country competitions again.

Mary Jane Richards said that over the years she has come forward to lodge a complaint with Ontario Teachers College because she wants to “account, recognize and reduce harm”-although she is not sure whether these goals will be achieved . (Jean Delaire/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Irreparable damage

Richards eventually cleaned up the mess, became a lawyer and raised a son.

But she said that she had been troubled by what happened to Des Brisay, and it took her many years to gather the courage to open her heart openly because of shame and guilt.

Finally, it is CBC Investigation of Historical Sexual Abuse of Bell High School Students This inspired Richards to lend a helping hand.

She said: “I just want other people to know that if they take on this alone, more people will come forward and talk about their experience.” “It’s really difficult because this is what happened to you.” The most shameful thing.”

However, Richards said that she is still worried about the lack of existing safeguards and procedures, including the Ontario Teachers College’s investigation mechanism. Twenty months after the complaint was filed, the regulatory agency has still not held a hearing.

She also wants her former coach to know the irreparable damage he caused to her.

“It happened in the early days of my growth as an adult. Its trauma is almost like the cornerstone of my personality, my existence,” she said.

“I would like not to be disturbed. I would like my trajectory not to be thrown into the wrench. I just like to see how far I can go without changing their way.”

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