An arbitration panel’s choice this week to raise longtime USA Taekwondo nationwide staff coach Jean Lopez’s lifetime ban from the game for sexual misconduct surprised the American Olympic sports activities group and left survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters demanding solutions.
Lopez’s reinstatement got here lower than a month after his brother Steven Lopez, the two-time Olympic champion, had an identical ban lifted. Jean Lopez’s reinstatement was particularly shocking to longtime athlete security advocates.
The U.S. Olympic Committee-created and funded U.S. Center for Safe Sport completely banned Jean Lopez in April for a collection of alleged sexual assaults on Workforce USA athletes, some as younger as 16, whereas they represented their nation on the Olympic Video games, World Cup occasions and different main worldwide competitions.
Lopez’s ban, Safe Sport stated in its April ruling, was based mostly on “a decades long pattern of sexual misconduct by an older administrator/coach abusing his power to groom, manipulate and, ultimately, sexually abuse younger female athletes.”
However in its ruling to reinstate Jean Lopez Monday, the three-member arbitration panel stated their was inadequate proof to uphold the ban with out testimony of the three survivors of his alleged abuse on the Dec. 27 listening to and since Safe Sport officers didn’t present the panel with sworn deposition transcripts or affidavits supporting the ladies’s allegations, in accordance with a confidential Safe Sport doc, obtained by the Southern California Information group, which outlined the ruling.
The arbitration ruling, which is ultimate and can’t be appealed, has prompted criticism of Safe Sport by attorneys for the survivors and countercharges by Safe Sport officers making a heated and escalating dispute between sexual abuse survivors and a few the nation’s most well-known advocates for athlete security on one aspect and on the opposite the Center for Safe Sport, billed as a recreation changer by the USOC within the battle towards sexual abuse in Olympics sports activities.
The controversy additionally returns the highlight on the Center for Safe Sport, which has acknowledged being underfunded and understaffed and faces criticism of being sluggish to answer athletes and resolve instances.
Robert Allard, a Bay Space lawyer who represents survivors within the Jean Lopez case, was extremely crucial of Safe Sport’s dealing with of the Lopez case generally and Joe Zonies, a Denver lawyer who represented Safe Sport within the arbitration listening to, particularly. Allard blamed the arbitration panel’s ruling on Zonies and Safe Sport’s failure to offer sworn depositions or affidavits from the three survivors.
Safe Sport officers stated Allard and different attorneys for the survivors turned down a suggestion to signal affidavits the middle proposed providing as proof in arbitration listening to. Statements made by the three survivors, Kay Poe, Mandy Meloon and Heidi Gilbert, throughout Safe Sport’s preliminary investigation of Lopez have been entered as proof for the listening to, in accordance the arbitration ruling doc.
Dan Hill, a spokesman for Safe Sport, stated Allard’s costs have been false and will probably have a chilling impact on future survivors weighing whether or not come ahead to report abuse to Safe Sport.
“Note that the arbitration panel went out of their way to say that the ‘prosecution,’ i.e. Joe Zonies of Safe Sport, did not present any “sworn testimony” of the claimants both by means of declarations or depositions,” Allard stated in an e mail to the SCNG. “We provided to provide each they usually refused, demanding stay testimony even if Safe Sport’s ‘Code’ doesn’t require it.
“This determination ought to take away any doubt that Safe Sport is an entire and utter sham and nothing greater than an extension of the USOC, a defendant on this class motion case. Mr. Zonies, the ostensible ‘prosecutor’ for Safe Sport, deliberately went into this arbitration empty handed and principally lied down to permit Jean Lopez and his lawyer to run proper over him with a view to obtain the specified end result, i.e. the reinstatement of an excellent star coach who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars for (USA Taekwondo) and the USOC.
“Once again, medals and money is the predominant motivation of the joint venture that is the USOC and Safe Sport and the safety of athletes does not appear to be any type of consideration,” continued Allard, who has represented dozens of survivors of sexual abuse by their coaches and officers. “Congress was dead-on correct when it concluded, after an extensive investigation that Safe Sport is wholly ineffective because it: 1) lacks the appropriate funding, 2) is run by persons who have no idea what they are doing, 3) is not as represented independent of the USOC and 4) lacks transparency.”
Hill stated Allard’s criticism of the middle was “disappointing” and identified that Safe Sport has declared greater than 300 people completely ineligible because the middle opened in March 2017.
It was notably “upsetting,” Hill stated “to hear the center called a sham.”
“We listened to them, we believed in them,” Hill continued referring to the survivors. “The center wanted its finding to be upheld. We’re upset but we need to deal with facts.”
Zonies didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The U.S. Center for Safe Sport was added in August to a lawsuit filed by a gaggle of former taekwondo athletes in U.S. District Courtroom in Denver that alleges gross negligence and trafficking by Safe Sport and the USOC for failing to guard feminine athletes from Jean and Steven Lopez.
Attorneys for Poe, Meloon and Gilbert allege within the lawsuit that the USOC, Safe Sport and USA Taekwondo, the game’s nationwide governing physique, engaged in pressured labor, intercourse trafficking and racketeering underneath federal RICO statutes by secretly obstructing investigations in allegations of sexual abuse by the Lopez brothers.
The Lopez brothers have denied any wrongdoing.
Allard maintained that depositions from survivors would have strengthened Safe Sport’s case within the arbitration listening to.
“If that is their ‘best’ they should immediately get into another line of business,” Allard stated referring to Safe Sport’s presentation within the Lopez arbitration listening to. “Even a novice lawyer would know that you simply want some sort of admissible proof substantiating the character and extent of the sexual abuse.
“The indisputable fact is that Safe Sport is a defendant on this class motion and has the correct to right away take the depositions underneath oath of the various victims of sexual abuse by the Lopez brothers to acquire this info. They failed to try this and subsequently deliberately went to a listening to with an unloaded gun understanding that they might fail to verify the ban issued by USA Taekwondo. There was no cause why they rushed into this course of, a lot much less two days after Christmas when a lot of the world is unavailable, at a time when the depositions had not but been taken.
“This case shows that Safe Sport is an abomination and should be blown up and replaced with a legitimate adjudicative process run by persons who care, are not conflicted and know something about what they are doing. We certainly don’t have any semblance of that right now and as such children participating in the Olympic movement continue to be vulnerable to sexual predators.”
In 1996, Poe turned the youngest member of the U.S. nationwide workforce at age 14. Safe Sport discovered that Jean Lopez , who is predicated in Houston, started sexually assaulting her in 1999 when he was 25 and she or he was nonetheless 16. He continued grooming her and had sexual activity later at a world event in Croatia that yr after she had turned 17, Safe Sport discovered. Lopez additionally had sexual activity with Poe a number of occasions on the 2000 Olympic Video games in Sydney, in accordance a Safe Sport report.
Meloon was molested by Jean Lopez whereas she pretended to sleep at a 1997 World Cup occasion in Cairo, Egypt, Safe Sport discovered. She was 15 on the time. Meloon was bodily abused by Steve Lopez in 2002 and raped by Steve Lopez in 2004, in response to Safe Sport.
Jean Lopez possible drugged, after which molested and had Gilbert carry out oral intercourse whereas they traveled to a World Cup occasion in Germany in 2003, Safe Sport stated. Jean Lopez additionally advised Gilbert he needed to go away his spouse and have “Olympic babies” together with her, in line with Safe Sport and courtroom paperwork.
Whereas the ladies reported Jean Lopez to Safe Sport and cooperated with the middle’s investigation, they declined on the recommendation of their attorneys to testify on the arbitration listening to.
In its ruling, the arbitration panel stated the shortage of testimony and sworn statements was pivotal of their choice to raise the Jean Lopez’s ban being lifted. 5 people testified on behalf of Jean Lopez
“The allegations set forth by (Meloon, Poe and Gilbert) are very serious and cannot be and have not been taken lightly,” the panel wrote. “The proof submitted exhibits polar reverse viewpoints on every of the allegations introduced in addition to proof that contradicted statements offered to Safe Sport. With out the testimony of (Meloon, Poe and Gilbert) or some other corroborating witnesses with first-hand information of the occasions, the panel was left with inadequate proof to help the allegations by a preponderance of the proof. The panel doesn’t have authority to drive witnesses to testify on this arbitration. On this matter, the witnesses essential to help the allegations both refused or weren’t obtainable to testify on the remaining listening to. Moreover, Safe Sport didn’t supply sworn testimony by means of deposition transcripts or affidavits to offer any testimony beneath oath of witnesses with first-hand information of the occasions alleged.
“As it pertains to the (ban) and the allegations relating to (Meloon, Poe and Gilbert), the panels finds that Safe Sport failed to meet its burden by a preponderance of the evidence to establish that Lopez violated the (Safe Sport code) and/or the laws of the State of Texas as set forth to greater detail above. Accordingly, the (ban) is set aside and the sanctions imposed against Lopez are vacated.”
Safe Sport officers stated they provided to ship Meloon, Poe and Gilbert affidavits for them to signal and return to the middle which might then be introduced them on the listening to.
“Obviously it’s best if the witnesses can testify at the hearing, if not in person, then by video,” Hill stated. “Or they can provide an affidavit which is at least another (option) in presenting the case.”
Safe Sport officers stated attorneys for the ladies declined the supply. Allard acknowledged this.
“It is true that they offered to have our clients execute declarations but we have steadfastly told them that the best way to get the testimony they need is to simply take depositions,” Allard stated. “There is nothing holding them back from doing so, especially because Safe Sport is a defendant in this case. We don’t want to subject our clients to duplicative processes such as executing declarations for fear that they will be re-traumatized.”
Stated Hill, “For (Allard) to say he doesn’t want his client re-victimized, and then also to say we should’ve deposed them in a civil matter against the center is preposterous. No one who understands trauma informed communication would ever suggest that the center should depose victims in a civil case.”
Safe Sport added to lawsuit alleging USOC cowl up of sexual abuse of taekwondo athletes by Lopez brothers