U.S. snowboarders sue former coach alleging sexual abuse

Fletcher from the US competes in the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom competition at the Torino Winter Olympic Games
Rosey Fletcher from the U.S. competes during qualification in the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom competition at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Bardonecchia, Italy, February 23, 2006. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Feb 2 (Reuters) - Three former U.S. snowboarders sued their former coach, the national snowboarding federation and the U.S. Olympic Committee on Thursday alleging sexual abuse that was covered up by the two sporting bodies, court documents showed.

Rosey Fletcher, Erin O'Malley and Callan Chythlook-Sifsof sued former coach Peter Foley, U.S. Ski and Snowboard (USSS), and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) in U.S. District Court for the central district of Los Angeles.

The suit alleges Foley exploited his position of trust with the athletes to "coerce sexual acts through force, manipulation, emotional abuse, intimidation, and retaliation".

"Foley's abuse was reported to executives of the USSS and the USOPC on numerous occasions by multiple athletes who were coached by Foley, yet no action was taken," said the suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of money damages.

The lawsuit alleges Foley committed widespread sexual misconduct, all of which was unwanted and non-consensual.

"We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed," a spokesperson for USSS said.

"U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor have had an opportunity to fully review it."

Reuters could not ascertain if Foley had a legal representative. An attorney who previously represented Foley did not respond to a requests for comment.

The USOPC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Former Olympic snowboarder Chythlook-Sifsof first raised the allegations in February last year in a series of Instagram posts.

Foley strongly denied the allegations, telling reporters at the Winter Olympics in China last February that, "I was totally surprised by the allegations. I vehemently deny the allegations."

USSS placed Foley on a leave of absence before firing him a month later.

The U.S. Olympic Committee said at that time it had followed protocol and reported the allegations to the U.S Center for SafeSport, which handles reports of sexual abuse within the Olympic movement.

SafeSport said in an email on Thursday: "The Center does not comment on matters to protect the integrity of its investigative process."

Fletcher won a bronze medal at the 2006 Games in Turin and also competed at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Games. Chythlook-Sifsof made the 2010 Olympic team in Vancouver and O'Malley was a national team member in the 1990s.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Jyoti Narayan in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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Daniel Trotta is a U.S. National Affairs correspondent, covering water/fire/drought, race, guns, LGBTQ+ issues and breaking news in America. Previously based in New York, and now in California, Trotta has covered major U.S. news stories such as the killing of Trayvon Martin, the mass shooting of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and natural disasters including Superstorm Sandy. In 2017 he was awarded the NLGJA award for excellence in transgender coverage. He was previously posted in Cuba, Spain, Mexico and Nicaragua, covering top world stories such as the normalization of Cuban-U.S. relations and the Madrid train bombing by Islamist radicals.