Two brothers under investigation for sexual misconduct were allowed to take part in the Rio Olympics last summer, according to a report.
USA Today reported that USA Taekwondo began investigating claims against Steven and Jean Lopez more than two years ago after multiple women said the brothers sexually assaulted them.
The organizing body consulted with the U.S. Olympic Committee and agreed to halt the probe before the Olympics, according to USA Today. That meant Steven Lopez – a 38-year-old, three-time Olympic medalist – and Jean, at 43 a veteran coach, could participate.
The newspaper obtained a March 22 letter from investigating attorney Donald Alperstein to one of the women in which he said he notified the FBI “because so much of the misconduct occurred in multiple jurisdictions” and added that he “felt the Lopez brothers needed to be removed from the sport.”
Both brothers denied sexual assault allegations made by four women to the newspaper and to investigators.
“I’ve never been inappropriate with anyone,” Jean Lopez said.
Mandy Meloon, a former taekwondo participant who says Jean Lopez molested her in 1997 when she was 16, said an FBI agent interviewed her for roughly two hours on May 19. She said she provided names of other women who say they were abused by the Lopez brothers and others in the sport.
Heidi Gilbert, another former athlete, told the newspaper that Jean Lopez drugged and sexually assaulted her. She said she did not contact law enforcement officials because “they’re not going to believe me, nothing is going to happen.” She said she did detail the allegations to investigators for USA Taekwondo and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
Another woman, identified only as a former member of the junior national team, said she was drugged three times and that Steven Lopez once had sex with her while she was unconscious. She also notified USA Taekwondo and SafeSport but not law enforcement.
The Associated Press doesn’t typically name victims of sex abuse, but Meloon and Gilbert made their accusations publicly.
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement provided to the newspaper that “preventing and responding to sexual abuse is something we take incredibly seriously” and is why it founded SafeSport, which operates independently from the USOC. The organizing body declined to specifically address questions about the Lopez brothers and the investigation.
“When the center opened in March, we appropriately submitted the taekwondo matter for its review, and to comment publicly in the midst of the center’s investigation would be inappropriate,” Sandusky said.
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