Photo: Jeff Gross (Getty)

Jean Lopez—the former U.S. taekwondo coach who was banned in April 2018 following a report from SafeSport that described “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”—will be reinstated, according to a USA Today report.

The SafeSport report that led to his permanent banning found a “number of incidents reported over a span of several years and by multiple reporting parties,” including the sexual assault of two athletes—Mandy Meloon and Heidi Gilbert—who SafeSport concluded had “no reasonable motive to fabricate an allegation—much less multiple, distinct incidents—of misconduct.” The reports made by these athletes were considered sufficiently credible by SafeSport to find Lopez “guilty of sexual misconduct and sexual misconduct involving a minor,” and make him permanently ineligible.

But Lopez was entitled to an appeal, and apparently SafeSport’s appeal process would require the in-person testimony of the reporting parties, who in this case are also the victims:

The U.S. Center for SafeSport temporarily removed taekwondo coach Jean Lopez from its database of sanctioned individuals this week after telling women who reported him for sexual misconduct that it wouldn’t defend his ban without their in-person testimony at his appeal, according to the women’s attorney.

This is hard to square with SafeSport’s published practices and procedures, which entitle reporting parties to conditional anonymity and confidentiality, and do not appear to require in-person testimony in any phase of the investigation or resolution. That SafeSport would now rest responsibility for keeping Lopez away from young athletes on his former victims is unconscionable. According to Lopez’s attorney, Lopez is once again allowed to coach, with the only restriction being that he is disallowed from having contact with his accusers:

“The main thing is that he had been barred from coaching and he’s no longer barred from coaching,” Jacobs said.

Asked about the interim restriction added on Friday afternoon, Jacobs said Lopez is prevented from having contact with the women.

Jacobs said it is “unclear” if this is the final step in the case.

“We hope that this is the end of it,” he said.

The attorney for Meloon and Gilbert responded to SafeSport’s unbanning of Lopez by describing SafeSport as “a paper tiger” that is failing at its job of keeping athletes safe. Certainly this development supports the suggestion that SafeSport is, in fact, designed to fail.