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05.02.2020 Europe

Ice skating boss defies calls to resign over sex abuse coach

By Paul Myers - RFI
AFP/Bertrand Guay
LISTEN FEB 5, 2020
AFP/Bertrand Guay

The top executive in French ice skating was on Wednesday expected to defend his decision not to quit his post after a court case opened in Paris in which a former leading coach was accused of rape and sexual harassment of young skaters

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

"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.

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."

France's sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, on Monday urged Gailhaguet to quit. "He cannot absolve himself of his moral and personal responsibility," she said.

While Gailhaguet insisted he would not make a decision on whether to step down until the investigation had concluded. "I, as federation president, will await the result of this investigation before making any decision on the resignation the sports minister asked for," he said.

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 remains.

"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 french federation of ice sports let him do so but it won't be the the French federation in the future."

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