Ice Skating

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Senator: U.S. Figure Skating Needs ‘Immediate Change’

1 May, 2019

By: Michael Popke

With so much attention focused on USA Gymnastics and the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, it may have been easy to miss when the U.S. Center for SafeSportrecently characterized a culture within U.S. Figure Skating as one “that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long.”

The explosive report also called for “any person with knowledge of abuse, including leaders, officials, coaches, managers, parents or athletes,” to provide additional details.

“I am appalled that no one in authority appears to understand the lessons of the horrific failures that enabled Larry Nassar’s abuse of young gymnasts for almost 30 years,” wrote U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in an email to USA Today Sports in early April.

Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee investigating the Olympic sexual abuse scandal, added that U.S. Figure Skating must make “immediate change” following the statement from the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is an independent nonprofit organization.

What prompted Blumenthal’s ire? According to Mashable:

SafeSport [investigated] allegations levied against former U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin. In January, Coughlin was suspended by SafeSport for unreported reasons; a day later, he died by suicide

In early January, before his suspension was announced, Coughlindenied any wrongdoing in an email to USA Today’s Christine Brennan, calling them “unfounded.” Following his death, Brennan reported that three claims of sexual misconduct, including two by minors, had been filed against the skater.

… SafeSport’s role as the designated “independent national safe sport organization” was codified by the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, part of which amended the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.

Several hours after USA Today reported on the email from Blumenthal, the paper noted that U.S. Figure Skating issued a statement noting representatives from the national governing body met with officials from SafeSport in mid-March “with a goal to learn about any factual scenarios that led to the Center’s public statements regarding U.S. Figure Skating. At that time, U.S. Figure Skating shared with the Center its nearly two-decades of work and accountability in taking action in the area of athlete safety and prevention of abuse.”

Since then, USA Today added, both organizations have had “an ongoing dialogue to address topics raised by the Center,” USFS said.

Meanwhile, 51 women have sued the U.S. Olympic Committee, its board members and several high-ranking officials for failing to prevent their abuse by Nassar, a USA Gymnastics doctor who is now behind bars.

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