Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has apologized for his support of a friend who was arrested and pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking charges.
In a letter addressed to his fans and published on his social media accounts on Sunday, St-Pierre wrote that he made a mistake by signing a letter in support of “King of Pot” Jimmy Cournoyer. However, the former UFC champ added that he will continue to support Cournoyer as a friend.
St-Pierre's full letter dated June 29 can be read below.
“A letter I signed in support of my friend Jimmy Cournoyer, who has recently pleaded guilty to a number of drug traffic-related crimes in the U.S., has generated a great deal of controversy over the last few days.
“First of all, the letter I signed was a mistake – my mistake. I will not go into detail as to why and how the letter came about because it’s not going to right a wrong. I simply wanted to help repatriate Jimmy to a Canadian prison, closer to his family, if that was possible.
“My friendship with Jimmy is based on our mutual passion for martial arts and going to the gym. I was not aware of Jimmy’s crimes until he was arrested by the U.S. authorities. I do not condone any of his criminal actions. He will and should pay for his actions. My position against the use of drugs has been on the record for years, and speaks for itself.
“I have been to visit Jimmy in prison – twice so far. We also had many conversations since his arrest. Why? Because I believe in redemption, and I believe in loyalty. I will continue to support him – as a friend. In fact, if Jimmy leaves prison one day, I should be there to help him start over in a better way.
“I want to unconditionally apologize to those who have been offended by my actions. But I often say that the wheel of life turns and turns, causing ups and downs for each of us. I was also taught that a real friend is there to offer support at the best and the worst of times.”
Controversy began surrounding St-Pierre earlier this week when a report by the Montreal Gazette revealed that the fighter had written a letter used during Cournoyer's trial, which followed his arrest in 2012. In the letter obtained by the Gazette, St-Pierre referred to Cournoyer as “a really good friend” and wrote that what the drug kingpin did with his life was none of the fighter's business.
“We have a very human relationship,” St-Pierre wrote, according to the Canadian media outlet. “We share the same passions, which is sport fitness and martial arts.”
As part of his guilty plea, Cournoyer admitted to taking part in a conspiracy that dated back 16 years. Cournoyer's crimes included the trafficking of marijuana and cocaine across U.S. borders, as well as money laundering.
St-Pierre announced last December that he was stepping away from fighting to deal with personal problems, not revealing what those issues might be. The fighter has subsequently been on record to say he stepped away partly due to what he described as the UFC's leniency towards drug testing.