Senator on US Figure Skating’s handling of sexual abuse allegations: ‘It’s outrageous’

By Pete
Madden, Cindy Galli, Cho Park, ABC News, Mar 13, 2018

national sports governing body is facing tough questions from a leading
lawmaker amid accusations that a figure skater’s allegations of sexual abuse by
a top coach were swept under the rug.
Figure Skating reckoning with sexual abuse allegations against Olympic coach

Senator Jeanne
, a Democrat from New Hampshire, blasted U.S. Figure Skating
for its handling of sexual abuse allegations originally filed in 1999 against
Olympic coach Richard Callaghan, who led Tara Lipinski to a gold medal at the
1998 Winter Games. Shaheen renewed her calls for a special committee to
investigate the United States
Olympic Committee
’s response to what she says seems to be a systemic
cultural problem.
outrageous, and it speaks to the culture that has been created that says there
is no accountability,” Shaheen told ABC News on Tuesday. “We need to be able to
bring people in front of an investigative body and put them under oath and
force them to testify to find out what has really gone on here.”
Maurizi, also an Olympic figure skating coach who recently returned from the
Winter Games in South Korea, says Callaghan began abusing him when he was young
skater training with him. Callaghan was
suspended last week
, pending a new investigation of the original
claims, after Maurizi submitted a complaint to U.S. Center for SafeSport, the
USOC’s misconduct watchdog.
said an ABC News
investigation detailing U.S. Figure Skating’s handling of those allegations
which the association quickly dismissed as “untimely” without ever interviewing
Maurizi, raises the specter of yet another scandal in yet another sport
following recent revelations of widespread sexual abuse in the elite levels of
both gymnastics and swimming.
Wong/Getty Images
. Sen.
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) (R) talks to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) (2nd L) and Sen. Tim
Scott (R-SC) (L) prior to a news conference at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2018.

“Why was
it not investigated when it was reported? Why was Callaghan allowed to continue
to coach for another 20 years before forcing him to step aside?” Shaheen said.
“Those are the kind of questions we need to ask, and we need answers for those
athletes that have been abused.”
U.S. Figure Skating nor the USOC responded to requests for comment on Shaheen’s
statements, but a spokesperson for U.S. Figure Skating said the Association has
a “zero tolerance” policy regarding abuse and pointed to abuse policies and
reporting rules instituted in 2000, shortly after Maurizi’s initial complaint.
Donald Trump
recently signed a bill requiring national sports governing bodies who receive
sexual abuse allegations to report them to law enforcement within 24 hours, but
Shaheen and others say that new legislation is not enough.
want to see people held accountable for what they did and what they failed to
do,” she said.
Manly, a California attorney who represents Maurizi and many of the gymnasts
who accused Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, said many of his clients feel that
SafeSport is “nothing more than public relations cover for the USOC.” He
called for a “massive federal investigation” of the USOC and its governing
bodies, including U.S. Figure Skating.
that investigate themselves rarely find themselves guilty,” Manly told ABC
News. “There needs to be an independent outside criminal investigation of the
USOC … so we can know what they knew, when they knew it and … hold people to
Manly is a California attorney who specializes is representing victims of
sexual abuse.
spokesperson for SafeSport defended the organization’s independence and touted
that in its first year of operation the organization has handled 536 reports
across 37 different sports.
“We are
an independent body governed by an independent board,” the spokesperson said.
“Our mission is the wellbeing of athletes and protecting them from all forms of
abuse. The Center is working. We are achieving our mission. SafeSport is needed
now more than ever … We care about the survivors and the athletes who have been
harmed and we want everyone to know there is a confidential, professional,
independent place where they can report any form of sexual misconduct within
the Olympic movement.”
Brennan, a sports columnist and ABC News contributor who trailed several top
skaters and coaches, including Callaghan, during the 1994-95 season for her
1996 book Inside Edge: A Revealing Journey into the Secret World of Figure
Skating, likened the flood of allegations to an “awakening.”
pressure, she said, could finally change the calculus for organizations that
many observers believe have long prioritized medals and money over the safety
and security of their elite athletes, many of whom — especially in sports like
gymnastics, swimming and figure skating — are children.
“I’m sure
there are millions of Americans out there that are saying, ‘What in the world
is happening in the name of the U.S. Olympic effort?’” Brennan said. “And
that is a question we should all be asking ourselves today.”
ABC News’
Noor Ibrahim and Maureen Sheeran contributed to this report.