U.S. Figure Skating has once again requested that the U.S. Center for SafeSport complete its investigation of three reports of sexual misconduct against the late U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin.
In a letter sent Tuesday to SafeSport and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee investigating the Olympic sexual abuse scandals, USFS wrote that “the lack of a completed investigation has produced great uncertainty … innuendo and continued speculation” concerning the allegations against Coughlin, 33, who took his own life Jan. 18, one day after he received an interim suspension from SafeSport.
On Feb. 12, SafeSport announced it was closing its investigation into Coughlin three weeks after USFS officials said it was “imperative” that the investigation be completed. USFS also had asked for an independent third party to assist in the investigation, a request it reiterated this week.
“Since the Center’s response and resolution process works to protect the sport community and other covered persons from the risks associated with sexual misconduct and abuse,” SafeSport said in its Feb. 12 statement, “it cannot advance an investigation when no potential threat exists.”
USFS pushed back on that reasoning in its letter this week.
“While the Center may believe any threat has been mitigated by Mr. Coughlin’s death, the lack of a completed investigation has produced great uncertainty,” the national governing body said. “Further, the lack of a completed investigation has allowed for innuendo and continued speculation to dominate the conversation instead of a resolution of the facts.
“Many U.S. Figure Skating athletes and members have expressed concern to U.S. Figure Skating leadership over the Center’s actions and shared that they have lost trust and confidence in how the Center processes allegations of abuse.”
JOHN COUGHLIN: Former U.S. figure skating champion dies by suicide
In a text message to USA TODAY Sports on Friday morning, SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said “nothing has changed from our perspective.”
In its letter, USFS issued a challenge to SafeSport, which has been in existence for just two years.
“The Center’s mission is to make athlete well-being the centerpiece of the nation’s sports culture through abuse prevention, education and accountability. Under the circumstances, to accomplish this, the Center must finish what it started and complete this investigation. Only then will the Center accomplish its mission for the claimants, U.S. Figure Skating athletes and members, and Mr. Coughlin’s family.”
USA TODAY has reported that Coughlin was facing three reports of sexual misconduct against him, two of them involving minors, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Coughlin, a two-time national champion, was a fixture at skating competitions and rinks around the country as a coach, TV commentator and a rising star within both USFS and the International Skating Union, the sport’s worldwide federation.
In a Jan. 7 email to USA TODAY, Coughlin called the allegations against him “unfounded.”
“While I wish I could speak freely about the unfounded allegations levied against me, the SafeSport rules prevent me from doing so since the case remains pending,” he wrote. “I note only that the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation in no way constitutes a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to the allegation.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Christine Brennan on Twitter @cbrennansports.