SA’s Olympics boss Tubby Reddy on Sunday played down the shock resignation of team spokesman Mark Keohane in the wake of allegations of drug abuse and sexual harassment.
Keohane quit suddenly on Friday as spokesman of SA’s Olympic team and as publishing director of Highbury Safika Media (HSM), which publishes SA Rugby and SA Cricket magazines.
Keohane, a well-travelled journalist, served as communications officer for the Springbok rugby team between 2000 and 2003, resigning in protest over racism in the national team. He was in charge of 30 magazines at HSM, and several years ago launched a successful rugby website.
HSM has a contract with the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), for which it managed all the publicity of South Africa’s Olympic team since 2008. The contract was said to be worth R12 million.
Sascoc chief executive Reddy told the Cape Argus on Sunday that HSM would keep its communications contract intact despite “old rumours flaring up now”.
He denied that Keohane was the Olympic team’s spokesman, saying Sascoc had signed a contract with HSM to do media liaison work.
“The only spokespeople at Sascoc (are) myself and the Sascoc president,” Reddy said. “HSM handles our media liaison, that’s it.”
Keohane has in the past frequently been quoted as Sascoc spokesman.
In a 2009 affidavit sent to the Cape Argus on Sunday, one of Keohane’s former senior employees claimed that he had sexually harassed other female employees and suffered from “sad, gross cocaine addiction”.
She said she had “suffered from his addiction” and “excessive cocaine use”.
She claimed she had to “apologise to female bar staff at a Newlands private suite after he sexually verbally harassed them while on cocaine. He also sent sexually harrassing (sic) text messages which the bar staff’s mother found on her phone”.
In Sunday’s edition of the City Press newspaper, Keohane said his lawyers would deal with the allegations.
“I have nothing to answer for in relation to the said allegations of former employees,” he said.
Keohane could not be reached for comment, but posted on Twitter: “Great one-sourced investigative journalism on Rapport & City Press based on employee retrenched 3 yrs ago. Sad that I am deemed such news.”
Gary Lemke, senior editorial director at HSM, initially told the Cape Argus that HSM would not comment on Keohane’s resignation.
He later said Keohane had put out a statement saying that he had resigned to “protect the integrity of HSM and its clients”.
About the drug and sexual harassment rumours, Reddy said: “Mark is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
“They are allegations. My relationship with everyone at HSM has always been good. It seems it was a disgruntled former employee who was retrenched that has now fuelled this. But he (Keohane) has said he will fight it legally.”
Keohane has worked for Business Day, SA Sports Illustrated, the Cape Argus and Cape Times as a sports writer. He was also employed by the SA Rugby Football Union and became Springbok communications officer in 2000.
In 2008, he won the Sports Journalist of the Year award from SA Breweries in the print and internet categories, writing for Independent Newspapers. He has written five books.