Cape Town - Desiree Vardhan, the woman who accused sacked South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) CEO Tubby Reddy of sexual harassment, has described the organisation’s workplace as a toxic environment which Reddy ran with an iron fist.
Reddy was suspended by the organisation in June last year under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations, before being sacked in January this year when a SASCOC disciplinary committee found him guilty.
In an interview last week with Afrikaans newspaper Rapport, Vardhan said she felt something needed to be done - hence her decision to write a letter to the SASCOC top brass in April 2017.
In the letter, she outlined how Reddy had sent her dirty e-mails, had made indecent comments, improper suggestions and cut her responsibilities as SASCOC’s head of coaching because she gave him the cold shoulder.
“I waited for years for someone else to stand up say something on what was going on there. It’s not only about what happened to me, I could no longer sit back and allow top management to bend the rules and make new rules to suit themselves. Sport suffered in the process.”
Vardhan decided she had enough and decided to write a letter to SASCOC president Gideon Sam.
“In the letter I explained how I was harassed and intimidated. The sexual harassment started soon after I started working at SASCOC in 2009. The first (incident) was an inappropriate answer when I wished him, and others, a happy Diwali. Tubby then started sending me pornographic photos. He would order me to sit right in front of him in meetings and would get angry if I refused. He asked me for massages. When he couldn’t get out of it what he wanted, he opted to destroy me by blocking my way as coaching head. He didn’t want to help me reach my ideals of legalising a professional coaching body. He at times refused to send me to meetings and conferences.”
After sending the letter, Vardhan said her life became hell at work.
“The first day after my complaint was heard it felt as though I was walking through landmines at work. No one from senior management ever called me in to discuss what I had written. I instead received the cold shoulder. And through it all I had to keep working alongside Tubby. The sexual harassment stopped in 2013, but the intimidation continued until he was suspended (in July 2017).”
Vardhan said she received calls in the middle of the night and had to use a different routes to work every day because she was being followed.
In what was another hammer blow, she also revealed that her computer was hacked.
On May 22, Vardhan was in a meeting with her team to plan a coaches training workshop for the next day.
Without her knowledge, a message stating that she made the accusations against Reddy because Sam wanted to work him out, was sent from her e-mail address to the media.
“We later found out that someone hacked into my SASCOC account on May 21 in Sandton. I was in Durban that day. When I opened my Gmail account in Johannesburg the next day, the password was read which allowed them access to that as well. On May 29 the hackers wiped everything off my memory stick. At one stage they duplicated my secondary Gmail account with an address where a 9 was changed to an 8 to make it look as though I was sending the messages.”
READ the full story on Rapport
Sidebar: Reddy has maintained that he never sexually harassed Vardhan. In an open letter he sent to media and sports federations on January 12 following his dismissal, he said the allegations were “a total fabrication and vindictiveness because I prevented her husband from earning money from SASCOC in a dishonest manner”. Reddy did not respond to fresh requests for comment on Vardhan’s allegations.