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Ice skating boss defies calls to resign over sex abuse coach

Didier Gailhaguet, the president of the French ice sports federation, says he will consider his position at the end of an inquiry into sex abuse allegations against a former coach..
Didier Gailhaguet, the president of the French ice sports federation, says he will consider his position at the end of an inquiry into sex abuse allegations against a former coach.. AFP/Bertrand Guay

The top executive in French ice skating on Wednesday defended his decision not to quit his post after a court investigation opened in Paris into allegations that a former leading coach raped and sexually harassed young skaters

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Didier Gailhaguet, the president of the FFSG, has come under pressure to resign from leading politicians led by the sports minister Roxana Maracineanu after the former world championship bronze medallist Sarah Abitbol revealed she was raped several times in her mid-teens by Gilles Beyer.

But in a broadside to his critics, 66-year-old Gailhaguet asserted he had not protected Beyer.

"I only learned about these allegations a week and a half ago," said Gailhaguet. "I don't have the words to describe my disgust."

And lashing out at Maracineanu for moralising, he added: "She has not listened to me. She is cloaked in her certainties. And we're surrounded by a bunch of opportunists who haven't been anywhere near a skating rink for decades."

Gailhaguet has been in the firing line since Abitbol's reflections on her youth.

"He [Beyer] started to do horrible things leading to sexual abuse and I was raped at 15," said Abitbol, now 44, in a video interview with the magazine L'Obs.

The investigation will also attempt to identify all the other victims who suffered... offences of the same nature, said Paris-based prosecutor Remy Heitz.

Allegations

Abitbol's claims coincided with sports daily L'Equipe publishing an investigation in which three other skaters accused Beyer and two other coaches of abuse and rape when they were minors.

Beyer, 62, has admitted to having had intimate and inappropriate relations with Abitbo. He told the news agency AFP: "I acknowledge having had intimate relationships with her," Beyer said in a statement.

"If my memories of the exact circumstances differ from hers, I am aware that, given my duties and her age at the time, these relationships were inappropriate."

Demand

Maracineanu on Monday urged Gailhaguet to quit. "He cannot absolve himself of his moral and personal responsibility," she said.

Her stance received support from Emmanuel Macron's administration on Wednesday. "The demand for resignation is obviously supported by the whole government," said government spokesperson Sibeth N'Diaye.

While Gailhaguet insists he will not make a decision on whether to step down until the investigation has concluded, four members of the ice sports federation's executive bureau quit on Wednesday over Gailhaguet's continued presence at the top after 20 years.

Maracineanu, a former swimming world champion, does not have the power to sack Gailhaguet but has hinted that the federation would face state sanctions if he were to remain.

"To start such a process of withdrawing state backing would also show we are against this type of behaviour," Maracineanu told France 2 TV station.

"If Gailhaguet wants to stay head of the ice sports federation, let him do so but it won't be the French ice sports federation in the future."

 

 

 

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