A longtime US figure skating coach who trained Tara Lipinski to an Olympic gold medal in 1998 has been suspended and is to be investigated by an organization formed to prevent sexual abuse of athletes, the sport’s governing body said on Friday.
Richard Callaghan, 72, is barred from any figure skating activities sanctioned by the sports group or the US Olympic Committee pending the outcome of an inquiry by the US Center for SafeSport, an independent watchdog group, US Figure Skating said in a statement.
SafeSport was formed last year to examine complaints of sexual abuse and other mistreatment of athletes reported to the group. It was last month designated by the US Congress to develop policies and procedures to protect amateur athletes from harm.
SafeSport on its Web site confirmed that it has opened an investigation into Callaghan, but a spokeswoman said the organization does not comment on the specifics of its cases.
USA Today, citing two unnamed sources with knowledge of the situation, reported that Callaghan’s suspension stemmed from decades-old allegations recently brought to SafeSport’s attention by the coach’s alleged victim, Craig Maurizi.
Maurizi could not be reached for comment, but he was quoted by the newspaper as saying: “I don’t want to discuss any actions that I may or may not have taken in filing a grievance with SafeSport at this time.”
US Figure Skating also did not comment directly on the nature of the allegations under review or the identity of the alleged accuser.
However, the skating organization said in a statement that it had in 1999 looked into a grievance filed by Maurizi and took no action on that case, because the alleged wrongdoing had occurred 14 years earlier.
US Figure Skating said it had fielded no other reports of sexual abuse by Callaghan before then or any complaint of any alleged misconduct by him since.
Callaghan could not be reached for comment on Friday. When allegations first surfaced in 1999, he “vehemently denied” them, the New York Times reported at the time.
His lawyer, Dean Groulx, told reporters by telephone that his client was “shocked” to hear of the suspension.
“Richard did not receive prior notice before SafeSport released that information to the public,” Groulx said. “We are looking into whether Richard’s fundamental right to due process has been violated.”
Groulx said he was contacting SafeSport to determine if its investigation centers around the Maurizi allegations, in which he said his client was cleared of any wrongdoing.
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