The U.S. Center for SafeSport declared on Monday to USA Today that it had uncovered “a culture in figure skating that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long” while it was investigating sexual misconduct allegations against national pairs champion John Coughlin, among other cases.
“The issues in this sport are similar to those the center has seen in many others and cut across a wide population,” SafeSport said in a statement to USA Today. “This cannot be allowed to continue.”
The announcement came less than a month after SafeSport ended its investigation into Coughlin, who had been accused of sexual misconduct with minors. Coughlin died by suicide a day after he was placed on interim suspension by SafeSport in January. SafeSport discontinued its investigation of Coughlin because, they said, “The Center cannot advance an investigation when the named respondent no longer presents a potential threat.” U.S. Figure Skating asked SafeSport to complete the investigation in order to resolve the uncertainty and speculation surrounding Coughlin But the center has reaffirmed that the investigation cannot go on.
Said Safesport spokesperson Dan Hill to USA Today, “Without getting into the specifics of any particular person, we have had people want to explain how the sport works, with concerns about how young women in particular are treated, especially in pairs skating.”
Hill didn’t get into specifics about how the center would respond to this crisis, either. In an email exchange with Deadspin about what the next steps would be, he acknowledged that the center’s plan “may sound general,” but said that it starts with accountability for anyone who actively or indirectly supported abuse. He added that “efforts are ongoing” to make sure that SafeSport’s training and policies are fully implemented in the sport.
“At this stage in the process we are hoping people who know of abuse in the sport are empowered to come forward so that the tragic circumstances that led to this conversation result in meaningful change,” Hill said.