An explosive assessment on widespread “unchecked” sexual misconduct within the sport of figure skating concluded that “a culture in figure skating that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long.”
The findings, released Monday by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, stemmed from the investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against the late two-time national pairs champion John Coughlin, who took his own life in January, the USA Today reported.
The tragic incident happened a day after U.S. Figure Skating (USFS) suspended Coughlin for unspecified allegations. It was later revealed that he was facing three different reports of sexual misconduct; two of them involved minors.
The reports, which were filed with SafeSport, an independent nonprofit that investigates all forms of abuse in sport, led to a gradual disciplinary action by the USFS, the national governing body for the sport.
The first action, on Dec. 17, restricted the skater’s participation in future events, pending results of the investigation. The other two reports allegedly involved minors at the time of the encounter, and resulted in an interim suspension, the following month.
In an email to USA Today's Christine Brennan on Jan. 7, he denied any wrongdoings, calling the allegations “unfounded.”
SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill told USA Today that the organization became aware of the issues after these reports, as well as “the anecdotal stories and evidence we have been receiving.” They’ve been communicating with people who “want to explain how the sport works, with concerns about how young women in particular are treated, especially in pairs skating.”
He also encouraged people who “want to change the culture of this sport to come forward. All covered individuals (USFS member coaches, staff, board members and officials, among others) have an obligation under the Code to report, and the Center does enforce that obligation.”
As a nod to the bravery seen by athletes with the U.S. Olympic Team, he noted that it takes brave people to speak up and change a broken culture.