Police Threaten Cedric Lapointe with Jail Time for Working Out Solo, Violating COVID Gym Closure Law
In December 2021, gyms in the province of Quebec, Canada—a province that currently requires you to be fully vaccinated even to buy alcohol—were mandated to close again due to COVID-19.
After being closed for nearly 400 days since the start of the pandemic, CrossFit Games hopeful Cedric Lapointe’s gym, CrossFit 819 in Gatineau, decided to keep operating under the guise that they are safe, and that their services are essential for physical and mental health.
The Gatineau City Police Department caught wind of this, paid him a visit and contacted the Public Health Department, who took the gym to court last week.
The verdict: CrossFit 819 was found to be in violation of the province’s gym closure mandate according to Lapointe, and if anyone is caught working out in the gym, even alone and even the owner, they could face jail time.
- “We literally had 12 hours to prepare our case (before we had to go to court), and they had to prove that we didn’t respect the law, which they did, and now if someone is caught in the gym working out, they could go to jail for 30 days… so I’m not going to take my chances,” said Lapointe, who narrowly missed qualifying for the 2021 CrossFit Games when he placed eighth at the CrossFit West Coast Classic semifinals.
For Lapointe, this blow is just another in a long series of challenges he has faced since the start of the pandemic in his ongoing fight to find a place to train in peace.
Remind me: One year ago, on January 31, Lapointe was training alone at CrossFit 819, a 9,000 square-foot facility, when three police cars and six policemen stormed the gym and then kept him outside in shorts and a sweaty bandana in minus twenty degree weather for nearly an hour.
- At the time in Quebec, only professional athletes, or the owner, were allowed to train in a gym, and because they didn’t recognize CrossFit as a professional sport, Lapointe, a coach but not owner, wasn’t granted permission to train.
- Gym closures remained in effect in Quebec for quite some time after that, so Lapointe moved to Alpharetta, GA in April, where he trained for the next four months before returning to Canada in August of last year.
What happened next: Lapointe trained more peacefully in Quebec from August until December 2021, when the new gym closure mandate came into effect. That being said, police showed up every single week, Lapointe said, to make sure they were operating with the right COVID protocols in place. At the time, to even step foot in a gym in Quebec you needed to be double vaccinated.
- “They said they were going to fine us (multiple times) because people weren’t two meters apart, or they were wearing their masks under their noses, but they never actually gave us any fines,” said Lapointe, adding that police showed up between 15 and 20 times between August and December.
- “But to be honest, they were really respectful those times and I kind of learned how to deal with them and be respectful to give them what they want, so I could get what I want, which is peace and the ability to train,” he added.
- But when gyms were mandated to close again in December, the peace ended. “It’s so insane. The government here is actually recommending that people call on their neighbors and on businesses… and when they get a call, they have to come. We learned in court that the call actually came from another gym owner, but we don’t know who,” Lapointe said.
- He added: “It’s so sad. They’re putting people against people. Constantly…It’s terrible.”
What’s happening now: CrossFit 819 is continuing to fight, this time through a Charter Challenge, where they’re hoping to prove to the court that the mandate to close gyms is unconstitutional. They will present their case in court next week, but it could take a number of weeks, even months, and a lot of money, Lapointe said.
- In the meantime, Lapointe has been, and will continue to train, illegally, at his friend’s 10-by-15 foot garage gym. “I park far away on the street and walk in because I don’t want a $6,000 fine,” he said.
- Though he said he feels incredibly lucky to have a place to train at all, the training environment is less than ideal. “I have to snatch inside the rig and the pull-up bar is super low, but I make it happen. I have a rowing machine and an Assault bike, but I can’t do muscle-ups or rope climbs,” he said.
What’s next: With the 2022 CrossFit Open less than a month away, Lapointe admitted he isn’t sure what’s going to unfold. “Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do…I’m really scared of sneaking into the gym. I went to the gym last week to get equipment (to take home) and the police were parked right there,” he said.
Another option might be to hop over to the province of Ontario to do the Open if gyms open up there before the competition begins. “So that’s a possibility,” he said. “Or who knows, maybe our next interview will be from jail.”