Thursday September 28, 2023
Law

Snowboarders Accuse U.S. Ski & Snowboard, USOPC of Sex Trafficking

  • Three former national team members allege “a pattern of unwanted sexual abuse” in lawsuit.
  • Suspended snowboarding coach Peter Foley among defendants in a second lawsuit.
snowboarder
Mario Kneisl-USA TODAY Sports
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The U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the federation’s former CEO and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee comprised to cover up “a pattern of unwanted sexual abuse” allegedly perpetrated by former snowboarding coach Peter Foley, according to a federal lawsuit filed on Thursday. 

Former U.S. Olympians Rosey Fletcher and Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, and former national team member Erin O’Malley alleged in the civil complaint that the inaction by the U.S. Ski & Snowboard and USOPC made the organizations complicit in sex trafficking. 

“Had the USSS or the USOPC taken the safety of their young athletes seriously, Foley’s behavior could have been prevented,” the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California stated. “Instead, for nearly 20 years, coaches and executives at both organizations enabled Foley’s behavior, refused to act, and helped cover up Foley’s behavior, allowing him to continue his pattern of abuse.”

USSS, USOPC, Foley, and Gale “Tiger” Shaw, who departed as USSS’ president and CEO in March, are listed as defendants in the lawsuit. 

“While we haven’t yet received the complaint and can’t comment on any specific details at this time, we take every allegation of abuse very seriously,” the USOPC said in a statement. “The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community.”

Foley, who had been a national team coach since 1994, was suspended by SafeSport in March, days before ESPN detailed many allegations of abuse. SafeSport —  the independent body authorized by Congress to police misconduct and abuse within the U.S. Olympic movement —  currently lists Foley as “temporarily suspended.” 

The lawsuit alleges that Foley would “invite young female athletes to his hotel room, where he would be in bed with other young female athletes… and proceed to ‘hump’ or imitate sexual acts with the legs of said female athletes.”

Fletcher alleged that Foley “sexually assaulted [her]  when she was just 19 years old” and “forcibly” kissed Fletcher on another occasion. 

Another lawsuit was filed in the same district court on Thursday by former USSS communications employee Lindsey Nikola. USSS, Foley and Shaw are listed as defendants in that case. 

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,”  USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

Nikola’s lawsuit alleges “Foley coerced Lindsey to take nude photos and subsequently sexually assaulted her.”

“Lindsey pulled Foley aside, explaining to him that what he did to her was wrong, against her consent, and could never happen again,” the lawsuit stated. “She reminded Foley that he had ignored her repeated pleas of ‘no’ and “stop.” Shortly after confronting Foley, and as a direct result of the confrontation, Lindsey was informed that she would not be allowed to go to the Olympics as the USSS Press Officer as she had hoped.”

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