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French Skating Chief Resigns Amid Sexual Abuse Scandal

French Ice Skating Federation (FFSG) president Didier Gailhaguet speaks to the media during a press conference in Paris on Wednesday.
Francois Mori
French Ice Skating Federation (FFSG) president Didier Gailhaguet speaks to the media during a press conference in Paris on Wednesday.

The long-serving head of France's ice skating federation resigned Saturday in a widening scandal after multiple figure skaters accused their coaches of sexual abuse while they were underage.

Speaking to reporters after a special meeting of the federation, Didier Gailhaguet said he has "taken the wise decision to resign from my post. ... I have taken this decision with composure, with dignity, but without any bitterness before this injustice," the BBC reports.

Pressure on Gailhaguet began to mount after 10-time French skating champion Sarah Abitbol in a new book accused skating coach Gilles Beyer of coming into her dorm room and repeatedly raping her three decades ago, beginning at age 15.

Beyer admitted to intimate and inappropriate relations with Abitbol and apologized. Abitbol rejected the apology and called for accountability for "all those who covered up [the crimes] both in the club and the federation," the BBC noted.

Two other skaters have also accused Beyer of sexually abusing them and Paris prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation.

Multiple skaters have accused two other coaches, Jean-Roland Racle and Michel Lotz, of sexual abuse and harassment as well. Racle has denied the accusations and Lotz has not commented, according to reports.

Gailhaguet on Saturday accused France's sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, of making him a "sacrificial victim," The Associated Press reported. Maracineanu had earlier called for Gailhaguet to resign for allowing Beyer to continue working in the French skating federation despite earlier investigations into Beyer's misconduct.

Gailhaguet denied knowledge of allegations against Beyer, blaming the sports ministry for allowing Beyer to keep working in skating circles.

Gailhaguet served as the president of the French Federation of Ice Sports for nearly 20 years over two terms, first from 1998 to 2004, then from 2007 to the present.

Abitbol told French outlet L'Obs that Gailhaguet's resignation was "necessary, but this is only the first step."

She said it was still necessary to "clean up" the federation "where he has many friends. Those who have remained silent and supported his system are still there."

According to statutes, Maryvonne del Torchio, head of the federation's council, would step in to become the federation's interim president until its next election within five weeks.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Huo Jingnan (she/her) is an assistant producer on NPR's investigations team.