By Brittany Martinez
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Craig Maurizi has been here before.
In 1999, he accused Richard Callaghan, once figure skating’s top coach, of sexually abusing him when he was one of his students more than a decade earlier. He reported the abuse to the sport’s national governing body. He told his story to several major media outlets.
But Callaghan issued strong denials. Maurizi’s claims were dismissed. Callaghan kept coaching.
Now, nearly two decades later, Maurizi has brought his allegations against Callaghan – and U.S. Figure Skating’s handling of those allegations – back into the spotlight. He filed a new complaint to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s misconduct watchdog, in January.
An exclusive interview with Maurizi will air Tuesday morning on Good Morning America.
This time might be different. On Wednesday, the U.S. Center for SafeSport suspended Callaghan, pending a new investigation of those earlier allegations. His name was added to U.S. Figure Skating’s roster of banned or suspended members late Wednesday night — listed alongside more than a dozen others publicly shamed for various alleged misdeeds — barring him from all USFS-sanctioned events until further notice.
Upon hearing the news of Callaghan’s suspension, Maurizi says he was overcome by a mix of emotions. Happiness. Vindication. Relief. Then he settled on another one.
“The truth is that as the days are passing,” Maurizi told ABC News, “my anger is growing.”
That’s because Callaghan had been permitted to continue coaching under the auspices of U.S. Figure Skating despite the organization receiving from Maurizi what he calls “a mountain of evidence” to support his claims.
Maurizi submitted a tranche of documents to SafeSport – mostly letters to and from skaters, coaches and skating officials regarding his case – many of which had also been submitted to U.S. Figure Skating nearly 20 years ago. He also provided those same documents to ABC News.
“The more I thought about it the more it became clear that I had an obligation to try again to stop this man from coaching once and for all,” Maurizi told ABC News. “I would have a tremendous sense of guilt if I found out that he was still doing this to children and I didn’t do anything, so I had to do everything in my power to stop it.”
Maurizi is also exploring his legal options. He recently retained the services of the California law firm that represents many of the athletes who accused USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. He says he is focused on “getting the job done,” making sure Callaghan never coaches again.
When reached for comment on Friday, Callaghan told ABC News he had not been notified of his suspension. When asked by ABC News about Maurizi’s allegations, however, Callaghan said he had no further comment.
“That’s 19 or 20 years ago,” Callaghan said. “I have nothing to say.”
The documents, however, indicate that U.S. Figure Skating took no disciplinary action following detailed allegations of sexual misconduct levied against Callaghan by several male skaters stemming from incidents from 1977 to 1995.
U.S. Figure Skating has said that Maurizi’s claims were dismissed without full consideration because skating bylaws stipulated that alleged violations be reported within 60 days, and according to a spokesperson U.S. Figure had not received any abuse claims about Callaghan before or since. “Prior to Mr. Maurizi’s complaint regarding the alleged sex abuse by Mr. Callaghan, there was never a complaint submitted to U.S. Figure Skating prior to 1999 nor has any complaint been received from anyone since regarding any alleged misconduct by Mr. Callaghan,” said a spokesperson in a statement.
Both Maurizi and the former skating official who initially received Maurizi’s grievance are highly critical of the association’s handling of his allegations, however.
“It was, without a doubt,” Maurizi told ABC News,” a deliberate cover-up.”
‘FIGURE SKATING IS NO EXCEPTION’
U.S. Figure Skating is the latest national sports governing body to reckon with its alleged failure to protect young athletes. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun resigned in February amid ongoing scandals surrounding the handling of sexual abuse allegations by USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming.
According to Christine Brennan, a sports columnist and ABC News contributor who trailed several top skaters and coaches, including Callaghan, during the 1994-95 season for her 1996 book Inside Edge: A Revealing Journey into the Secret World of Figure Skating, the culture within figure skating is such that coaches are given an incredible amount of responsibility, and control, over their students.
“Figure skating is a sport in which parents often give their kids over to the coaches,” Brennan said. “The level of trust is extraordinary, even more than we see with gymnastics and swimming. Sometimes families split so the mother can move with the child who skates to follow a coach or go to a particular rink in another part of the country, while the father stays home with the non-skating kids. There is an inordinate amount of trust that a skating family places in a coach in a sport like figure skating.”
This is the second such case to be brought to U.S. Figure Skating’s doorstep in recent weeks. Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, the California firm representing Maurizi, recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of a former member of the USA National Figure Skating Team against U.S. Figure Skating, former coach Donald Vincent and a pair of Los Angeles-area ice rinks. According to Vince Finaldi, cases like Vincent’s are “one more example of the culture of child abuse that is rampant in our Olympic sports programs.”
“Figure skating,” he said, “is no exception.”
Vincent was convicted in 2014 of abusing two of his students between 2007 and 2011 and is currently serving a sentence of 98 years to life in prison. According to the complaint, skating officials had received previous abuse allegations against him, raising the
Source:: Sports News