By Duncan Mackay

John Furlong in solemn poseJanuary 23 - John Furlong's family have moved to defend the former President and chief executive of Vancouver 2010 after he was accused of physically abusing his first wife and raping a common law partner.

The allegations have been made in documents filed in a British Columbia court by journalist Laura Robinson, who Furlong is suing for a story she wrote for the Georgia Straight last year, in which she alleged he was abusive towards native students at Catholic schools while a teacher more than 40 years ago.

The 62-year-old Furlong, who is now the chief executive of Major League Soccer club Vancouver Whitecaps, is refusing to comment personally, promising he will respond in court. 

But his family, including his first wife, Margaret, who he is accused by Robinson of abusing, today issued a statement angrily denouncing the allegations. 

"During the Olympic excitement three years ago, when John Furlong was finishing a decade of service to this country, we would never have imagined this day, stepping forward to defend our father," the statement said.

"We, Maria, Johnnie, Damien, Emma, Molly, our mother Margaret, our step-mother Gail and our children - 11 of them - feel compelled to make a public statement.

"Serious, unsubstantiated allegations regarding abuse inside our family have been published.

"These shocking allegations are without merit and portray a character whom none of us recognises.

"We are being subjected to shame and embarrassment by misuse of journalistic privilege and licence.

"Imagine trying to explain to your nine-year-old child that an adult in a position of power has written that Grandpa is a racist, a wife-beater and a rapist because of what appears to be personal enmity.

"This is not objective journalism, but self-serving, sensationalistic misuse of the media.

"Obscene accusations and innuendo have now been printed nation-wide and nothing could possibly undo that.

"The public should be deeply concerned at the power of a single journalist whose words can smash into a family like a wrecking-ball."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
January 2013: Furlong faces new allegations after court documents filed
January 2013: Furlong defendants file court papers in libel case
November 2012: Furlong launches legal action over abuse allegations
October 2012: Former Vancouver 2010 chief continues to deny "humiliating and demeaning" abuse allegations
September 2012: Former Vancouver 2010 chief executive denies abuse allegations