Olympic spokesman Mark Keohane quits amid sex and drugs claims
Celebrity rugby writer Mark Keohane resigned suddenly on Friday as spokesperson of South Africa’s Olympic team – hours after M24i confronted him with allegations that he abused drugs and was a sex pest.
Former female employees of Keohane claimed he suffered from “sad gross cocaine addiction”, used prostitutes and sexually harassed them.
Over the past two years several have approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), claiming they were unfairly dismissed.
They claimed they were sexually harassed by Keohane and alleged they had witnessed him using drugs.
The allegations against Keohane are currently being widely distributed among sport writers and are being tweeted about on Twitter.
On Friday afternoon, three hours after M24i confronted Keohane, he replied and said he had informed the CEO of SASCOC, Tubby Reddy, that he was resigning as spokesperson for the Olympic team and that he would not be going to the Olympic Games any longer.
He has also resigned as publishing director of Cape Town-based Highbury Safika Media (HSM) with immediate effect.
Keohane was in charge of 30 magazines and the leading website keo.co.za. More than 700,000 vistors from 220 countries visit the site every year.
He is also the writer of several books and has been South Africa’s sports journalist of the year.
Keohane told M24i there was an “agenda” against him and that he could not allow “disgruntled and malicious former employees, one of them who was retrenched, to undermine the credibility and integrity of either HSM or SASCOC.”
Female employees have claimed that they were sexually harassed and were victims of his erratic behaviour allegedly brought about by drugs.
Their allegations include:
-That during the kick-off game of the Super 14 series in 2010, he sexually harassed an employee and allegedly tried to kiss her. Keohane had said afterwards he had only asked her for a date;
-Keohane wrote off his car in November 2009 after he allegedly went on a two-day cocaine binge;
-He apparently tried to “change his ways” after the accident, but was a month later back using cocaine;
-One woman said in a statement: “I realize that I have been like an abused woman. I have been put through hell and back by having to accept the blatant illegal use of drugs. I have had to sit back and allow my female staff to be sexually harassed, which breaks my heart and makes me ashamed as a boss.”
- During SA Breweries’ annual sports awards in 2009 in Johannesburg, Keohane and several other sports writers snorted large amounts of cocaine before the function. Afterwards, they had hired three prostitutes for the night.
Another of Keohane’s former employees, who occupied a managerial position, said it was well-known that he was often “totally off his face” as a result of his excessive cocaine use. She claims that she had an emotional breakdown as a result of his erratic behaviour towards her.
Keohane has been a controversial figure since his days as communications manager of the Springbok rugby team under the ill-fated regimes of trainers Harry Viljoen and Rudolph Streauli.
He resigned after a racial incident involving the Springboks Geo Cronjé and Quinton Davids. He started keo.co.za and sold it to HSM.
Keohane and HSM were also involved in a partnership with former Springbok coach Jake White – Jake White’s Winning Ways, but the relationship disintegrated and ended in the Cape Town High Court.
Keohane is widely involved in other business enterprises of HSM, among them managing Springbok flanker Luke Watson, who was brought back from the United Kingdom to the Eastern Cape to captain the Kings.
Since 2008 HSM and Keohane had a contract with SASCOC. They do all the publicity for SASCOC and South Africa’s Olympic team. The contract is said to be worth R12 million.
Keohane said he had engaged lawyers to deal with the allegations. He added: “I have nothing to answer for in relation to the said allegations of former employees.”
Tubby Reddy of Sascoc said the contract was between them and HSM and not with Keohane as such and that HSM had nominated Keohane as spokesman.
Reddy said if the allegations against Keohane were true, “such behaviour is certainly not in terms of SASCOC’s image, nor that of any of its athletes”.
HSM CEO Kevin Ferguson said Keohane was a valued and productive member of staff and his numerous awards attested to that.
He said the company regarded the allegations as extremely unfortunate and that there was clearly an opportunistic element to them.
Ferguson said he could not comment on allegations of cocaine abuse, but said that a complaint of sexual harassment was made against Keohane two years ago. He was asked to take leave, it was investigated and the issue was resolved.
“It is strange that they are surfacing now, more than two years later,” Ferguson said.