Another lawsuit was filed earlier this week against USA Diving, saying the organization ignored repeated reports by multiple divers of ongoing sexual abuse by a coach. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, also names an Indiana club known as RipFest Diving, the man who oversaw that club, former Olympic diving coach John Wingfield, and former coach Johel Enrique Ramirez Suarez.
Ramirez Suarez was arrested last year and had 32 criminal charges filed against him in an Indiana court. The charges included multiple counts of battery, sexual misconduct with a minor, and child seduction. State court records show that Ramirez Suarez was convicted last month of battery, while the other charges were dismissed.
This is the second lawsuit filed against USA Diving. The first one was filed in July and said the organization ignored reports of sexual abuse involving a different coach.
According to the lawsuit, RipFest had received by 2016 “complaints that Suarez was routinely sexually exploiting, assaulting, and raping multiple female athletes that were entrusted into the protection (and bound by the commercial terms of) USA Diving, Ripfest, Indiana Diving Association and John Wingfield.” Either RipFest knew or “was willfully blind” to what was happening, the complaint says.
The complaint also goes into detail about what happened to the two women bringing the lawsuit. One woman says in the complaint that, in 2015 and 2016, Ramirez Suarez used the time he spent helping her stretch to inappropriately rub her vulva about a dozen times. The second woman says in the complaint that, while she was a RipFest employee, Ramirez Suarez tried to “digitally penetrate her” while she slept in a RipFest dorm room. The woman, called Jane Doe 1 in the complaint, was able to fight him off, and then she told Wingfield what happened. Here is what the lawsuits says followed:
The next day, Jane Doe 1 told Defendant Wingfield that Defendant Suarez had assaulted her in the Ripfest dorms.
At all relevant times, Defendant Wingfield was Jane Doe 1’s direct boss.
Despite his ongoing duty to protect the athletes and coaches alike, Wingfield was dismissive of Jane Doe 1’s allegations and took no action.
Afterward, other divers also spoke up to Wingfield about Ramirez Suarez. The lawsuit says that Wingfield dismissed what they told him:
In response to athlete complaints against Suarez, Defendant Wingfield told his athletes that Defendant Suarez was “Venezuelan, and that is just how they are.”
Ramirez Suarez was reported to law enforcement in 2017 after he placed his hands on a young diver’s vulva. The diver told her teammates and Wingfield, but Wingfield did nothing, according to the lawsuit. So the diver told her parents, who contacted law enforcement, leading to the arrest.
RipFest released a statement to the Indianapolis Star, which first wrote about the lawsuit, saying it had “zero tolerance for this type of behavior” and had “immediately removed” Ramirez Suarez from its program once “we became aware of allegations.” The Star wrote that USA Diving did not respond to its request for comment. Deadspin also has reached out to USA Diving for comment and will update if the organization responds.
You can read the full complaint by clicking here.