By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian Olympic Committee's (AOC) media and communications director Mike Tancred has stepped down from his role pending an investigation into bullying allegations, the AOC said on Wednesday.
Tancred, a long-serving lieutenant to AOC President John Coates, was accused of workplace bullying and intimidation by former CEO Fiona de Jong and a number of other staffers.
Tancred declined to comment on the allegations when contacted by Reuters.
"The AOC has this afternoon received notice from Mike Tancred that he is 'standing down from (his) position of AOC Director of Media and Communications pending the outcome of any investigation of the complaint made against (him) by Fiona de Jong,” the AOC said in a statement.
De Jong, who departed the AOC in December, aired the allegations in local media over the weekend and said she had made a formal complaint to Coates about Tancred four months ago.
She complained that the AOC had dragged its heels on investigating the allegations, which have put pressure on Coates in the leadup to a presidential election on May 6.
Having considered legal advice, the AOC board decided to name an independent committee to investigate the complaint after an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday.
"The committee will comprise three senior counsel or retired judges, including at least one female within its membership," the AOC said in a statement.
"The committee will be asked to inform the Executive of their determination within one month of their appointment."
The AOC will also commission an independent review into workplace practices which will be overseen by the incoming CEO.
An International Olympic Committee vice president and one of the world's most powerful sports administrators, Coates said on Tuesday that the allegations were part of a "vindictive" campaign aimed at bringing his 27-year reign to an end.
He is facing the first challenge to his leadership since he assumed the presidency in 1990, standing against Olympic hockey gold medallist Danni Roche, who has taken aim at Coates's A$700,000 (410,475 pounds) salary and campaigned on a platform to divert more money from administration to athletes.
Also the head of the IOC's coordination commission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and president of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Coates said the AOC's board meeting would be a chance for a "sensible discussion" of the allegations.
But local media have called on the 66-year-old to step down.
"Coates has brought this upon himself," prominent sports pundit Patrick Smith wrote in The Australian newspaper.
"It seems clear now that Australian sport will thrash itself into dysfunction if Coates stays any longer."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Additional reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)