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President of scandal-hit French skating says he might resign

Update: February, 07/2020 - 12:53

 

Didier Gailhaguet said he could resign but again complained that people are not listening to him. — AFP/VNA Photo

PARIS — The president of the French figure skating federation said on Thursday that he might resign over the sex abuse scandal that has engulfed his sport, while the coach at the centre of the controversy is ready to face prosecutors.

Didier Gailhaguet, the long-time head of French skating, said on evening television that he would resign - if he had to.

"If I'm the one who has to resign because it's the only way to unblock the situation, of course I'll do it," Gailhaguet said, before repeating his complaint that critics, led by sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, had not listened to his explanations.

"I would like to have said what I still have to say, which is not quite finished," he said.

Earlier, lawyers representing Gilles Beyer, the coach accused of rape by former skaters, said that he is prepared to talk to prosecutors investigating claims of sexual abuse of minors in figure skating.

"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 said.

In an autobiography published last week, Sarah Abitbol, a former world championship bronze medallist, accused Beyer of raping her several times from 1990 to 1992 when she was between the ages of 15 and 17.

That started a cascade of further accusations.

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.

Maracineanu has called for Gailhaguet to step down over the accusations, saying he has "personal responsibility" for the handling of the case.

"Logically, it's after completing an investigation that we determine the culprits," responded the 66-year-old Gailhaguet on Thursday.

"There, a culprit is designated and then we say: 'we're setting up an investigation'."

The Paris public prosecutor's office announced on Tuesday that it was opening an investigation into rape and sexual assault of minors by a person with authority over the victim.

On Thursday, a judicial source told AFP that no charges had yet been filed against 62-year-old Beyer.

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

Under Gailhaguet, Beyer, already Abitbol's coach, took over as manager of the French national team.

There were complaints of inappropriate behaviour, and in 2000 an inquiry led the then sports ministry to remove Beyer from his technical role at the federation, but he remained a coach at one of France's top skating clubs.

Beyer held an executive position at the federation until 2018.

On Wednesday, Gailhaguet told a press conference that he had "absolutely not protected Gilles Beyer".

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

 

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