France’s Sports Minister has called for the chief of the country’s Ice Sports Federation to quit for giving senior roles to a former national champion accused of raping teens he was coaching.
Didier Gailhaguet has responded by saying that he will “think about” it.
Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu called for Gailhaguet to quit as head of the French Federation of Ice Sports after professional ice skater Helene Godard accused two former national champions of sexually abusing her as a minor and Sarah Abitbol accused Gilles Beyer of rape.
In an extensive report published on Wednesday, 29th January by L’Equipe, Godard had accused national champions Beyer and Jean-Roland Racle of sexually abusing her when she was between 13 and 16 years old in the late 1970s.
And in a new book that was also published last Wednesday and in an interview with the newspaper L’Obs, Abitbol, a 10-time French champion and bronze medal winner in the pairs at the 2000 world championships, accused Beyer, her ex-coach, of raping her between 1990 and 1992 when she was between 15 and 17.
Minister Maracineanu criticised Gailhaguet for having given several official functions, until 2018, to Beyer, who was suspended as sports technical adviser by the ministry in 2001 following a report on alleged sexual assaults.
Maracineanu said: “The number of facts and their spread over time illustrate that beyond the people mentioned, a general dysfunction exists within the federation.”
She said that Gailhaguet “cannot dodge his moral and personal responsibility.”
Gailhaguet said he would “think about” a possible resignation, notably during a meeting of the “management team of the federation”, scheduled for this Tuesday, to “study the situation together very closely, with lucidity and responsibility.”
He especially regretted not having been “listened to” or “heard” by Maracineanu, for whom he said “all decisions were already taken in advance”.
In the L’Equipe report, two other ice skaters, Anne Bruneteaux and Beatric Dumur, also accused a third coach of sexual assault and rapes. Dumur says the “rapes” allegedly repeatedly took place from 1984 to 1989 when she was staying at his home.
Dumur, now 48, told L’Equipe: “He said he was in love with me. But how can you be in love with a young 13-year-old girl?”
She also said that she now realises that she is “a victim and not a culprit” and hope that by coming forward, “other female athletes will be encouraged to seek justice”.
The three men who Godard, Bruneteaux and Dumur accuse are national figureheads in the skating world.
L’Equipe spoke to over “40 former athletes, parents, coaches and leaders” and denounced “the inaction of the French Federation of Ice Sports (Federation Francaise des Sports de Glace), led since 1998 by Gailhaguet (with an interruption between 2004 and 2007)”.
L’Equipe also released testimony from former professional swimmers, including Elisabeth Douet who was 14 at the time and Frederique Weber, who was 13 at the time coach Christophe Millet allegedly attempted to rape them. He was given a 6-month suspended sentence in 1996.
Then there is Isabelle Demongeot, a former tennis player, who accuses coach Regis de Camaret of rape. She told L’Equipe: “When are we going to give a hand to all these victims?” He was jailed in 2014 for 10 years for multiple rapes.
The case is the latest in a scandal after a bombshell investigation by NGO Disclose at the end of last year showed French sports has allegedly been rife with paedophilia and child sex abuse for years.
Maracineanu herself had been slammed for allegedly failing to investigate paedophilia in the country’s youth sports after a bombshell investigation revealed it was rife.
NGO Disclose’s investigation revealed hundreds of cases of paedophilia, many of which fell on deaf ears, even when complaints were reportedly made to Maracineanu and to the then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Disclose’s eight-month probe revealed many attackers to be repeat offenders with the majority of victims being under 15, shedding light on 276 victims in 77 cases, affecting 28 different sports in France, including football, gymnastics, equestrian sports, athletics, archery, fencing, table tennis and extending to rollerblading and chess.
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