One Olympic snowboarder and two other former members of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard (USSS) team filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Feb. 2 alleging sexual abuse. That lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), the USSS national federation and its previous chief executive officer (CEO), Gale “Tiger” Shaw, and the plaintiffs’ prior coach, Peter Foley, according to Reuters.
In the filing, the plaintiffs, former snowboarding national team member Erin O’Malley, three-time Olympian snowboarder Rosey Fletcher, and fellow Olympian Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, allege that the defendants all perpetuated sexual abuse by actively carrying it out or covering it up.
The civil lawsuit outlines how the plaintiffs’ former coach used the position of trust he’d built with them as his coachees to coerce them into “sexual acts through force, manipulation, emotional abuse, intimidation, and retaliation.” The plaintiffs also wrote in their filing that Shaw and the USOPC additionally “conspired and acted in concert with one another to commit unlawful acts.”
Breaking Down the Sexual Assault Allegations
In the case of Olympian Fletcher, she accused her former coach Foley of assaulting her at the snowboarding team’s camp when she was 19 and participating in the 2006 Olympic games. She reports that she was additionally sexually assaulted at a post-Olympic games event.
As for Olympian Chythlook-Sifsof, she alleges she was sexually assaulted by a much older coach of a competing snowboarding team in Switzerland in 2005 when she was 16 and participating in her first-ever junior world championship. Just last year, she made disparaging comments on social media about Coach Foley, leading many to conclude the sexual assault she suffered could have been carried out by him.
In the case of the third plaintiff athlete, O’Malley, she also outlines her experience with having been sexually assaulted by Coach Foley at different USOPC and USSS events she participated in. She argues that this treatment involved sexually-charged verbal, mental, and physical abuse. She was only 15 years old at the time.
These aren’t the first lawsuits filed against Foley or the respective athletic organizations. A USSS employee also filed a lawsuit on Feb. 2 chronicling her sexual assault allegations.
For its part, the USSS contends it followed protocol in handling the sexual assault allegations, including reporting them to USOPC officials. According to ESPN, the USOPC alleges they responded accordingly by launching an investigation, which led to them requiring Foley’s interactions with athletes to always be observed.
The Resolution the Athletes Who Were Sexually Assaulted Are Requesting
In this case, the plaintiffs wrote that their coaches and the executives running their professional athletic organizations were permissive of these sexual assaults, never made any attempt to put an end to it, and even went as far as implementing ways to cover it up. They note that had the USSS put a stop to Foley’s interactions with athletes, this cycle of abuse would have never continued to happen.
The plaintiffs argue that the sexual abuse they endured not only affected the three plaintiff athletes but allowed the cycle of abuse to continue for nearly two decades. The plaintiffs’ filing in federal court didn’t specify what types of damages they’re seeking.
Where To Turn for Help if You’ve Faced Sexual Abuse
Issues with coaches, athletic trainers, and others taking advantage of their position of power to sexually abuse athletes is, sadly, nothing new.
As you’ll likely remember, many amateur and Olympic gymnasts came forward a few years ago and filed suit against their athletic federation team physician accusing him of sexual abuse. Not only were their accounts of what happened instrumental in prosecutors having enough evidence to file criminal charges against him and in winning their case, but the stories the gymnasts provided of what they went through at the doctor’s hands were critical to them filing and winning a civil suit against him.
Our Thomas Law Offices team represents clients here in Chicago and nationwide who have been at the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances, harassment, and assaults. Our sexual abuse attorneys know how traumatizing such acts can be and want to ensure you receive maximum compensation to cover any trauma-related mental health care and other support you need to get your life back in some semblance of order once again.
Reach out to our law offices to have a confidential conversation with a sexual assault lawyer to learn about the legal rights you have to hold liable parties accountable. There’s no cost and no obligation associated with discussing your case with one of our attorneys.