A former coach of the U.S. taekwondo team was banned from the sport this week for sexual misconduct. The ban of Jean Lopez, which is not yet permanent, was based on a report done by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an organization created by the U.S. Olympic Committee to investigate sexual abuse. Lopez had coached the national taekwondo team for more than a decade, while his two brothers and sister went on to win Olympic medals in the sport, eventually earning the moniker of “first family” of taekwondo. One of his brothers, Steven Lopez, is one of the most decorated athletes in taekwondo. NPR and USA Today obtained a copy of SafeSport’s decision, with USA Today quoting from it this:
“This matter concerns a decades long pattern of sexual misconduct by an older athlete/coach abusing his power to groom, manipulate and, ultimately, sexually abuse younger female athletes,” SafeSport said in its decision obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
“Given the number of incidents reported over a span of several years and by multiple reporting parties, most of whom have no reasonable motive to fabricate an allegation—much less multiple, distinct incidents—of misconduct, the totality of the circumstances clearly shows a recurrent pattern of behavior on the part of Jean.”
According to the SafeSport database, Lopez is “permanently ineligible” and has been found in violation for sexual misconduct and sexual misconduct involving a minor. But next to each decision is “subject to appeal/not yet final.”
Here is what permanently ineligible means, according to SafeSport’s glossary of terms:
The Covered Individual (Responding Party) is permanently prohibited from participating in any capacity in any activity or competition authorized by, organized by, or under the auspices of the United States Olympic Committee, the national governing bodies recognized by the USOC, and/or a Local Affiliated Organization of a national governing body recognized by the USOC
According to USA Today, the Lopez investigation began three years ago when USA Taekwondo got complaints saying that Jean and Steven Lopez had possibly sexually assaulted multiple women. USA Taekwondo was concerned enough that its lawyer notified the FBI. But that investigation never reached a resolution and was handed over to SafeSport in March of last year, USA Today reported. During that time, Jean and Steven Lopez were allowed to go to the Olympic games in Rio.
The SafeSport database lists Steven Lopez as under an “interim measure—restriction” for sexual misconduct.