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Coach in French skating sex abuse scandal ready to speak to prosecutors - lawyer

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Paris (AFP)

The French ice skating coach accused of rape by one of his former skaters in a scandal that has reached the top of the sport is prepared to speak to prosecutors, his legal team told AFP on Thursday.

Prosecutors are investigating claims of rape and sexual abuse of minors in figure skating, with coach Gilles Beyer at the heart of accusations that have shaken French sport.

"Gilles Beyer has been placed on the chopping block for days by the media but he will save any comment for the prosecutors," his lawyer Thibault de Montbrial told AFP.

Former world championship bronze medallist Sarah Abitbol has accused Beyer of raping her several times from 1990 to 1992 when she was between the ages of 15 and 17. She made the accusations in an autobiography published last week.

Another skater, Helene Godard, accused Beyer and another coach Jean-Roland Racle of sexual abuse when she was a minor.

On Wednesday sports daily L'Equipe reported that the mother of another young skater claims that Beyer sexually harassed and blackmailed her in 2017 and 2018 in return for coaching her daughter.

A judicial source told AFP on Thursday that no charges had yet been filed against 62-year-old Beyer.

Sports minister Roxana Maracineanu has called for ice skating chief Didier Gailhaguet to step down over the accusations, saying he has "personal responsibility" for the handling of the case.

However Gailhaguet has refused to resign, saying in a media conference on Wednesday that he has "absolutely not protected Gilles Beyer".

"I found out about 90 percent of these incidents in the press and in a book... 10 days ago."

Gailhaguet has been the most influential man in French ice skating since he first became president in 1998, some years after the alleged offences.

The 66-year-old's accession to the presidency opened the door for Abitbol's coach Beyer to take over as manager of the French national team, and it has been shown that Gailhaguet was aware of complaints of inappropriate behaviour against Beyer.

An inquiry in 2000 led the sports ministry to remove Beyer from his technical role at the federation, but he remained a coach at club level and held an executive position at the federation until 2018.

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