Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner has come forward with sexual abuse allegations against her former skating partner John Coughlin, who died by suicide in January amid an investigation into other abuse claims.
Wagner, now 28, said in a USA Today piece on Thursday that she was 17 years old when Coughlin, then 22, sexually abused her at a house party attended by fellow athletes in 2008.
She told two friends about what happened but otherwise said she kept it a secret, concerned it would upset her parents and confused about whether she somehow misinterpreted what happened.
“In 2008, I didn’t have the knowledge and empowerment that came with the #MeToo movement. No one had explained consent to me. Something that was so ambiguous then is very clear now,” she wrote.
Wagner said she decided to come forward with her story now after seeing 13-year-old Alysa Liu become the youngest skater ever to win the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Wagner wants to make the sport “safer for those kids.”
“It is not normal for kids and teenagers to be in the same social environment as adults. But in figure skating, it happens all the time. Thirteen-year-old girls can be on the same international team as 21-year-old men, traveling on the same flights, staying in the same hotels, eating all of their meals together,” she said of the environment she was in as a professional athlete.
“I want kids to be able to stay kids in this sport,” she continued. “People need to start talking about how to create boundaries. My talent and ability should not have been what defined the people who were around me.”
Coughlin killed himself in January as he faced three reports of sexual misconduct, USA Today reported in February, citing a person with knowledge of the investigation. Two of those reports involved minors, according to the paper. Coughlin called the allegations against him “unfounded” in an email to USA Today.
Wagner did not say in her piece whether hers was one of those reports. A representative for Wagner did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport, which had been investigating Coughlin on behalf of U.S. Figure Skating, closed its investigation into Coughlin after his death. A representative with the organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the latest developments and its decision to end its probe.
In the months after his death, Coughlin’s former teammate Bridget Namiotka accused him of sexually abusing her and at least 10 other girls when she was a minor. They skated together when she was between the ages of 14 and 17 and he was between 18 and 21.
“He sexually abused me for 2 years,” she wrote in an emotional Facebook post.
Like Wagner, Namiotka said she hoped that by sharing her story she’d help others.
“My hope is my story will change and impact the skating world in a positive way,” she told The Kansas City Star in a written message earlier this year. “He did sexual abuse me for two years. He was four years older than me.”
Coughlin’s former agent, responding to Namiotka’s allegation back in May, reportedly called her “unstable” in a text message sent to USA Today.
Namiotka did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
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