Eight months after John Coughlin, renowned Olympic figure skater killed himself, a female competitor claims he assaulted her. Ashley Wagner has come forward as the second Olympic figure skater to give her account of his abuse, according to The New York Times.
These allegations raise serious issues in figure skating about keeping underage skaters protected while skating with partners that are older, without proper supervision.
One former coach, Debbie Varner commented that the skating environment is “the equivalent of a senior prom all the time.”
Ashley Wagner, now 28, a 3-time U.S. Skating champion, who medaled in the Olympics and world championships opened up in an interview with USA Today. She claimed that her skating partner assaulted her at an Olympic training camp in 2008 when she was 17 years old.
Wagner explained that the two were at a party in Colorado Springs in 2008 when Wagner decided to go to sleep. While in her room, Coughlin entered and climbed into bed with her and assaulted her. She began to cry and stopped him.
“All of this happened over the period of about five minutes,” Wagner recounted. “That is such a small amount of time, but it’s haunted me ever since.”
At the time of Coughlin’s death, the former national pairs champion had been suspended from skating pending an investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit organization that investigates sexual abuse in sports.
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Shortly after his death in May, Bridget Namiotka, 29, took to Facebook and accused Coughlin of sexually assaulting her for 2 years, while they were Olympic skating partners. She was in her mid-teens while Coughlin was 18 to 21. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Niamiotka recounted the horror.
“I’m sorry but John hurt at least 10 people including me,” although she did not specifically name any of them. “He sexually abused me for 2 years.”
These allegations come at a time when U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committees have come under greater scrutinty following other Olympic athletes taking legal action for sexual abuse. National gymnastics team doctor, Lawrence G. Nassar, was recently the subject of Olympic gymnasts’ sexual assault charges. Nassar is now in prison.