Photo: Shaun Botterill (Getty)

A 132-page lawsuit filed last week says the U.S. Olympic Committee “has reached for commercial success at all costs by ignoring, denying, obstructing, or covering up complaints of sexual abuse.” It also accuses the USOC of “deferring and diverting investigations” and supporting the national governing bodies that oversee Olympic sports regardless of how little those groups did to protect athletes.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Colorado, stems from the case of Jean and Steven Lopez, brothers once dubbed the “first family of taekwondo.” Jean Lopez, his brother’s coach, was banned from the sport last month for sexual misconduct. Steven Lopez, a three-time Olympic medalist, has been under interim restrictions since last year, and on Monday he was placed on temporary suspension. But the investigations into the Lopezes have taken years, while allowing them to take part in the most recent summer Olympics. According to the lawsuit, the conduct of the Lopez brothers toward underage women, including sexual assault, were open secrets with the world of taekwondo well before those Olympics, but the USOC always turned a blind eye because of all the money the brothers brought in. From the lawsuit:

Starting in 1996-97 and continuing until 2018, Defendants USOC and USA TKD knowingly participated in a venture to transport and traffic Plaintiffs and numerous other unknown other young female USA Taekwondo athletes around the globe to be used for the sexual benefit of Defendants Jean and Steven Lopez, as well as other USOC and USA TKD coaches and officials that will be uncovered during discovery in this case.

The USOC and USA TKD knowingly and willfully participated in this venture by acting as the travel agent and commercial funder for the Lopez brothers in the domestic and international sexual exploitation of young female athletes wearing Team USA on their uniforms but carrying an awful secret about the coaches they were required to listen to, call “Master,” bow to, and follow.

If these athletes wanted to stay on Team USA and fulfill their childhood dreams to compete as Olympians for the United States, they had no choice but to submit to the Lopez brothers’ sexual demands.

If they refused to do so, they were benched, suspended, or kicked off Team USA by the Lopez brothers, the USOC, and USA TKD.

The original complaint was filed last month with one plaintiff, Heidi Gilbert, and only named Jean Lopez as a defendant. Now there are four plaintiffs—Gilbert, Amber Means, Mandy Meloon, and Gabriela Joslin—and the USOC, USA Taekwondo, and Steven Lopez have been added as defendants. The lawsuit has detailed allegations of all four women being sexually abused by Steven, Jean, or other people who at the time worked for USA Taekwondo.

The USOC and USA TKD knowingly and willfully participated in this venture by acting as the travel agent and commercial funder for the Lopez brothers in the domestic and international sexual exploitation of young female athletes wearing Team USA on their uniforms but carrying an awful secret about the coaches they were required to listen to, call “Master,” bow to, and follow.

If these athletes wanted to stay on Team USA and fulfill their childhood dreams to compete as Olympians for the United States, they had no choice but to submit to the Lopez brothers’ sexual demands.

If they refused to do so, they were benched, suspended, or kicked off Team USA by the Lopez brothers, the USOC, and USA TKD.

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These are the accounts of each plaintiff, as described in the lawsuit.

Mandy Meloon

Meloon moved to the USOC training center in Colorado in at age 13 to train full-time in taekwondo. That same year, according to the lawsuit, Jean Lopez started having “sexual conversations” with her. On a team trip to Korea, he had her sit in his lap and called her his girlfriend. Jean Lopez also was “openly having sex with a different minor female member of the USOC’s National Taekwondo Team at the Olympic Training Center,” according to the lawsuit.

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In 1996, when she was 15, Meloon was allegedly raped in her room at the training center by an adult member of the national team, Danny Kim. He would later film them having sex while they both lived at the training center, and they had sex on a trip sponsored by USA Taekwondo, according to the lawsuit. When she got pregnant, Meloon went back to Germany (where she was born) to get an abortion. She was 17. Kim was banned from the sport earlier this year.

The USOC was fully aware that Mandy had to miss competitions to get an abortionto terminate the pregnancy caused by an adult resident of the USOC Olympic Training Center (Kim).

According to the lawsuit, in 1997, at a competition in Egypt, Jean Lopez climbed into a bed where Meloon was sleeping and digitally penetrated her vagina. She pretended to sleep through it.

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In 1998, the lawsuit continues, Meloon moved to Texas to train with the Lopez brothers. She began a relationship with Steven Lopez that became violent. According to the lawsuit, Steven Lopez punched her in the face in 2002, beat her up in 2004, and in 2005 beat and raped her. She ran from her house “in a state of undress and Steven chased her down the street,” the lawsuit said.

At the time, Jean Lopez was the national team coach. She was dropped from the team.

On May 5, 2006, the Sugar Land Police Department in Sugar Land, Texas, prepared an “Incident Report” based on a burglary committed by Steven Lopez at the residence of Mandy Meloon. The report documented that Steven Lopez had broken into her residence and awakened her by knocking on her bedroom door. She explained that she was “scared that he may return to her home” and that “he is upset that she has a new boyfriend.”

Mandy provided the case number of this Incident Report to David Askinas, then-CEO of USA TKD, and John Ruger, who was the USOC’s athlete ombudsman from 1999-2014.

In response, they did nothing.

When Meloon filed an official written grievance, she was told what she said wasn’t credible.

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Heidi Gilbert

Gilbert was a member of the team in 2002 that competed at the Pan-Am Championships. One day, she alleges, Jean Lopez came to her hotel room after the competition. He wrestled her to the bed, began dry-humping her, and ejaculated in his pants, according to the lawsuit. A year later, Gilbert moved in with the Lopez family to train with them and made the national team, which competed that year at the World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. After the competition, Gilbert and Jean Lopez were part of a group that went to a party. From the lawsuit:

At the party, Jean was sexually aggressive with Heidi by grabbing her, grinding his body into hers, and making inappropriate sexual comments to her.

At same point, Jean gave Heidi a drink that he had drugged.

After consuming this drink, Heidi almost passed out.

Heidi was aware of what was going on but could not move.

Jean ended up putting Heidi in a taxi with himself as the only passengers, where he began to touch Heidi’s breasts and vagina through her clothing.

When they reached the hotel, Jean dragged Heidi’s limp body inside to a lobby area in the back of the hotel and began slapping her face and choking her.

Heidi was unable to respond physically.

Heidi remembers Jean pulling down her pants and digitally penetrating her vagina.

Heidi remembers Jean performing oral sex on her.

Heidi passed out.

Heidi woke up on the floor of a common area of the hotel in a state of undress; Jean had managed to pull up her jeans but they were unfastened.

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In 2003, another USOC athlete demanded that Gilbert “fellate him,” according to the lawsuit. Three years later, Heidi was told by the then-CEO of USA Taekwondo to “not tell anyone about Jean’s sexual assaults,” the lawsuit said. Gilbert didn’t report this to the USOC or USA Taekwondo before 2015 because “her complaints would have been ignored—just as Mandy Meloon’s were.”

Gabriela “Gaby” Joslin

According to the lawsuit, Steve Lopez came to Joslin’s hotel room before a 2006 match in Germany, saying he wanted to talk about her match the next day. Inside the hotel room, Steve Lopez turned on porn, told Joslin she was “too tense” and started rubbing her glutes, according to the lawsuit. He pinned her to the bed, pulled down her pants, and eventually penetrated her, ejaculating inside of her, the lawsuit said. Afterward, Joslin would continue to have sex with Steve Lopez because she felt she had to. From the lawsuit:

Gaby then continued to allow Steven to have sexual intercourse with her for the remainder of her career in taekwondo, out of fear of the Lopez brothers and in particular, to Jean, who made it clear to her that she was to “cater to Steven.”

Gaby was groomed, conditioned, and trained to trust her coaches and, in particular, Steven Lopez, who was a “demigod” in taekwondo; Gaby felt she could “not say ‘no’ to him.”

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Years later, Joslin became a taekwondo coach and had a sexual relationship with Jean Lopez. In January 2011, Jean Lopez raped her, resulting in an ectopic pregnancy which required her to get an abortion. She reported what happened to USA Taekwondo in 2015, she says.

Amber Means

Means grew up in Spokane, Washington, but was convinced by the Lopez brothers to move to Texas to train with them. Even before moving, according to the lawsuit, she was “warned by her coaches in Washington that the Lopez brothers were known to take a sexual interest in the children they coached.” For several years, Means’ parents refused to leave her alone with the Lopez brothers. But the brothers still found ways to abuse her, according to the lawsuit, forcing her to fight male athletes without any protective gear.

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Starting in 2007, Steven Lopez began what the lawsuit calls grooming behaviors: “brushing against Amber, rubbing her arms, isolating her, giving Amber attention and making her feel special.” When she was 17, Seven Lopez began taking Means out on dates, and they began a sexual relationship while she was still 17. At the time, the lawsuit says, Steven Lopez had sexual relationships with two other teenage athletes as well. In June, 2008, Steven Lopez invited Means to a party at a friend’s condo in Houston.

Amber remembers drinking a Gatorade and vodka, then blacking out.

Amber’s next memory was waking up in the bed of the owner of the condo after he had raped her.

The owner of the condo told Amber that Steven had raped her while she was passed out.

Steven Lopez had put a drug in Amber’s drink that caused her to pass out so he could rape her.

... At a party in February 2013, Steven Lopez again drugged Amber and also a friend of hers; he pinned her to a wall and tried to kiss her but she evaded him. Steven became angry and left, and Amber and her friend were able to escape.

Like the other Plaintiffs, Amber felt that if she angered the Lopez brothers, she would face retaliation.

When Amber rebuffed the sexual advances of Steven Lopez, she did face retaliation and ultimately her fighting career ended as a result of Jean’s control over the placement of athletes on competitive teams.

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Means filed a report with a lawyer for USA Taekwondo in 2015.

The lawsuit claims 37 counts, including forced labor, sex trafficking of children, benefitting from a venture that sex trafficks children, sexual exploitation, negligent supervision, negligent retention, and defamation. And it acknowledges that USA Taekwondo is not the only sport where multiple athletes have claimed they were sexually abused by coaches: “This lawsuit focuses on USA Taekwondo, but the other NGBs (for the 46 other Olympic sports) are rife with the same systemic sexual abuse of young athletes.”

You can read the full lawsuit here.