(The AEGIS Alliance) – Just hours prior to the 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Championships being set to start in Las Vegas, the lawyer for a former skater stated the sport’s nationwide governing body agreed to pay $1.45 million to settle the skater’s lawsuit accusing the organization of being negligent in its obligation to guard younger athletes from sexual abuse.
36-year-old Adam Schmidt, a former skating student of suspended Olympic coach Richard Callaghan, alleged he suffered “numerous sexual assaults” by the well-known coach when he trained with him as a teen within the years following U.S. Figure Skating ignoring or dismissing different allegations of sexual abuse against now age 74 Callaghan who coached Tara Lipinski to a 1998 Olympic gold medal.
The settlement and details about the lawsuit were first reported by ABC News.
“Adam is incredibly brave to have proceeded with this lawsuit against a huge organization like U.S. Figure Skating,” his lawyer, John Manly, mentioned in a telephone interview on Thursday.
“He is just the tip of the iceberg in this sport. These athletes should be treated like the treasures they are. They’re the best our country has to offer. Instead, they’re treated like a commodity in an organization that has a culture of sexual abuse that is stunning and despicable.”
In a press release, USFS stated it “does not comment on litigation,” and added it “fully supports all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct.”
In addition to the USFS settlement, Schmidt previously reached a $1.75-million settlement agreement from the Onyx Ice Arena in Detroit, the place Callaghan coached him and where the alleged sexual abuse happened.
In July 2020, one other of Callaghan’s former skating students, Craig Maurizi, sued Callaghan and USFS over sexual abuse allegations by Callaghan. Maurizi alleged Callaghan engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with him in 1976 when Maurizi was only 13-years-old, and afterward, initiated a full sexual relationship with Maurizi when he was 18.
That alleged relationship continued until he was 22, after which time Callaghan continued to have interaction in the inappropriate sexual conduct sporadically for an additional 12 years, Maurizi informed USA TODAY Sports in March 2018.
In January 2018, now age 57 Maurizi, detailed these allegations in a report filed with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which suspended Callaghan in March 2018. USFS then suspended him also. A lawsuit filed by Callaghan in opposition to SafeSport was dismissed.
The case remained unresolved until August 2019, when Callaghan received a ban for life, which then was controversially diminished to a three-year suspension in December 2019 by an arbitrator. Callaghan has repeatedly denied such allegations.
The U.S. figure skating community has been rocked by a series of high-profile sexual abuse allegations over the previous two years. Almost precisely two years ago, on January 18, 2019, then age 33 two-time U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin committed suicide one day after he received an interim SafeSport suspension.
There have been three reports of sexual abuse against Coughlin, two of them involving minors. Coughlin’s demise successfully ended the investigation into these reports, SafeSport stated.
In a January 7, 2019 e-mail to USA TODAY Sports, Coughlin referred to the allegations against him as being “unfounded.”
On August 1, 2019, three-time U.S. champion and 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist Ashley Wagner told reporters that she was sexually assaulted by Coughlin after a party at a USFS national team figure skating camp in June 2008 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At the time, she had just turned 17 and Coughlin was 22.
And SafeSport continues to investigate an allegation of sexual abuse of a then age 13 American female figure skater by French Olympic pairs skater Morgan Cipres, who allegedly sent her direct messages of two images of his penis on Instagram to the girl on December 3, 2017.
The girl and her mother and father mentioned Cipres’ coaches, John Zimmerman, a 2002 Olympian and member of the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, and Silvia Fontana, a 2002 and 2006 Olympian representing Italy, tried to keep the family from reporting the alleged incident to authorities by shaming and threatening the girl as then age 26 Cipres was ready for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Fontana and Zimmerman have denied these allegations, whereas Cipres stated he had “nothing to say about this allegation.” Cipres retired from skating in September 2020.
The Florida state attorney’s office has filed a felony charge against Cipres for the transmission of harmful material to a minor by an electronic device, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed below a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.