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U.S. snowboarders allege sexual abuse by coach, lack of oversight

Three U.S. snowboarders claim that complaints about their former coach went ignored by the USOPC and the sport's national governing body. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)
3 min

Three former members of the U.S. snowboard team said in a lawsuit that former coach Peter Foley and the governing bodies U.S. Ski and Snowboard and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee enabled nearly 20 years of sexual abuse and harassment from Foley.

In the suit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Southern California, former snowboarders Rosey Fletcher, Callan Chythlook-Sifsof and Erin O’Malley said Foley “exploited his relationship with athletes and subordinate personnel to coerce sexual acts through force, manipulation, emotional abuse, intimidation, and retaliation.”

They claim that complaints about Foley made to the USOPC and the sport’s federation were ignored.

“It’s a lack of oversight, but it’s also a permission given by” USSS and the USOPC, said Kenya Davis, one of the attorneys representing the snowboarders. “Once people were aware of his actions, they didn’t put any protections in place.”

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USSS cut ties with Foley last March following an investigation into allegations of misconduct. SafeSport is also investigating charges of abuse.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not reply to requests to comment.

Fletcher, a three-time Olympian, said in the suit that Foley once penetrated her with his fingers when she was 19 and another time kissed her without permission following a race. She said she did not believe she could tell him to stop, fearing he would retaliate, possibly costing her competitive opportunities.

Chythlook-Sifsof, a 2010 Olympian, made the first public allegations against Foley in an Instagram post early last year. In the lawsuit, she said Foley made sexually explicit comments to her when she was still in her early teens and did nothing when male teammates engaged in lewd and abusive behavior.

O’Malley alleged that Foley pressed her against the back of an elevator, groped her and began kissing her against her consent. She said he also made repeated comments about her weight until she developed an eating disorder that affected her career.

“There is a concerted effort [from Foley]; the pattern is the same,” Davis said. “What’s the weapon here? There’s no knife. There’s no gun. It’s the power and the coercion of a coach.”

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A former USSS staff member, Lindsey Nikola, also filed a lawsuit alleging that Foley sexually assaulted and harassed her. While her suit named the USSS and Foley, it did not include the USOPC.

The lawsuits first were reported by the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement, the USOPC said: “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 is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community.”

The USSS said in its own statement that the federation “immediately reported” allegations against Foley when they were brought to USSS officials last February.

Like the USOPC, the USSS’s statement said it has not been served the lawsuit and that it did not have a comment beyond saying the federation “is and will remain an organization that prioritizes safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”