You can add “Sexual misconduct allegations against a U.S. coach” to the list of off-the-slopes issues overshadowing the on-snow and -ice accomplishments at the Winter Olympics. In a series of Instagram posts Friday, former U.S. snowboard cross athlete Callan Chythlook-Sifsof alleged current U.S. snowboarding coach Peter Foley and another member of the team, Hagen Kearney, acted inappropriately and also made sexually and racially inappropriate remarks to her and another female snowboarder in the past.
Chythlook-Sifsof said Foley had been taking “naked photos of female athletes for over a decade,” ending the post, “Just another day on the US Snowboard Team.” She is no longer part of the team, but did spend about a decade on it, including an appearance at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She also accused Kearney of using the N-word in her presence. Chythlook-Sifsof, an Alaskan native, identifies as Yupik and Inupiaq. Chythlook-Sifsof has come out as LGBTQ and spoke out against Russia’s anti-gay laws during the 2014 Sochi Games.
Foley, who is coaching in Beijing right now, denied the wrongdoing, according to the New York Times.
“I was totally surprised by the allegations,” he said Saturday. “I vehemently deny the allegations. I’ve been doing my best to concentrate on supporting the athletes at the Olympics.”
Kearney did not deny the claims made at him, acknowledging his mistake years ago and telling the NYT via Instagram that action had been taken.
“I learned from my mistake, and I’m a better person now for it,” he said in the message. “That’s all I’ll say for now as I prepare to go to the medal ceremony to support my teammates.”
Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgarrnter are a couple athletes who have been under the tutelage of the longtime coach for years, and both defended him after winning gold in the mixed race Saturday.
“My 20 years on the team, I can speak very highly of his character, and he’s always been supporting me through everything that I’ve gone through,” Jacobellis said.
“I can’t speak any higher of that man,” Baumgartner said, describing Foley as “like a father” to him.
These allegations are incredibly concerning and an investigation has been opened regarding the behavior.
“U.S. Ski & Snowboard has been made aware of the recent allegations,” Tom Horrocks, a spokesman for the federation, said in a statement. “We take these allegations very seriously, and the allegations are being investigated. The concerns regarding Hagen were dealt with at the time, and appropriate action was taken.”
There’s never a good time to have misconduct claims levied at you, but this coming during these problematic Olympics and after perhaps the highest profile snowboarder just got a grand sendoff despite settling a sexual harassment suit is another brutal look for Team USA as a collective. (Even though Shaun White is a snowboarder, Foley would not have coached him because their disciplines are different.)
The focus should be on Jacobellis finally overcoming her Olympic blunder, and Baumgartner, at age 40, finally getting a gold, with the help of Jacobellis, in his last Games. We’re not though because of more Team USA-related turmoil.
We just had the gymnastics team sexual misconduct scandal (calling it a scandal is underselling the heinousness of the behavior), and now a longtime coach is in the news for alleged misconduct that’s also gone overlooked, according to Chythlook-Sisof.
“I cannot watch another Olympic Games without saying this publicly,” she also added in the posts.