McNaughton was born in Cornwall, Ontario and grew up in Vancouver. At the 1930 British Empire Games he finished fourth in the high jump event. He competed for Canada in the 1932 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, United States, in the high jump where he won the gold medal. Bob Van Osdel, who took home the silver medal, was a close friend and teammate from the University of Southern California. Van Osdel helped coach McNaughton to his win during the final minutes of the competition. Later, in 1933 when McNaughton's medal was stolen from his car, Van Osdel—then a dentist—made a replica to replace it with a cast of his silver medal. The men remained friends until Van Osdel's death in 1987; McNaughton stayed in contact with his widow until his death in 1998.