Nearly 20 years after allegations of sexual misconduct were lodged against a prominent U.S. figure skating coach, the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the Olympic movement’s recently launched organization charged with safeguarding athletes’ well-being, this week suspended Richard Callaghan. U.S. Figure Skating followed with its own suspension, as required by the USOC.
Callaghan, 72, who helped Tara Lipinski win a gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and played a key role in the Olympic careers of Todd Eldredge and Nicole Bobek, was added to U.S. Figure Skating’s list of suspended coaches Tuesday.
Callaghan, who stepped down from a high-profile coaching job at the Detroit Figure Skating Club soon after the allegations first surfaced in 1999, more recently had been coaching lower-profile skaters at a rink in Florida. He told ABC News, which broke the story Friday morning, that he had not been notified of his suspension and had no comment. Asked about the allegations that led to his suspension, he said: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”
Callaghan could not be reached for further comment.
Callaghan’s suspension was spurred by renewed interest in the allegations raised in 1999 by his former pupil and, later, co-coach, Craig Maurizi, according to an official with knowledge of the process.
Maurizi started working with Callaghan when he was 13. According to an April 1999 report in the New York Times, Maurizi told U.S. Figure Skating officials in March 1999 that Callaghan began engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with him when he was 15. A sexual relationship followed when Maurizi was 18, the Times reported, and continued intermittently for several years. The skater went on to explain that it was only as an adult that he realized the relationship was not truly consensual, given his age when it began, and that Callaghan had abused his authority as a coach.
At least two other male skaters came forward with accounts of sexual impropriety against Callaghan over the years. U.S. Figure Skating took no punitive action in response to Maurizi’s 1999 grievance because the alleged incidents had taken place roughly 14 years prior. As a result, Callaghan was allowed to continue coaching under the auspices of U.S. Figure Skating.
U.S. Figure Skating officials on Friday released a statement acknowledging Callaghan’s suspension but referred all questions to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which will not comment on individual cases.
The statement read: “U.S. Figure Skating suspended the membership of Richard Callaghan on March 6, 2018, in compliance with the policies and procedures of the U.S. Center for SafeSport. This action prohibits Callaghan from participating, in any capacity, in any activity or competition authorized by, organized by, or under the auspices of U.S. Figure Skating, the U.S. Olympic Committee and all USOC-member National Governing Bodies, including U.S. Figure Skating-member clubs and/or organizations. As the U.S. Center for SafeSport has exclusive jurisdiction and adjudication of this matter, U.S. Figure Skating will have no further comment.”
Maurizi told ABC that he considered the suspension “a great step in the right direction” but did not elaborate, explaining that he was seeking legal representation.
The Colorado-based U.S. Center for SafeSport opened after much delay in March 2017 and operates independently from the USOC and national governing bodies. There is no statute of limitations on the alleged incidents it will investigate, but it will initiate an investigation only after a report has been filed by a person alleging abuse or mistreatment.
The center has the authority to ban a coach or official for life, as well as suspend while an inquiry is ongoing. The names of banned or suspended coaches and officials are posted on its website.
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