PARIS (AP) — The long-serving head of France’s skating federation resigned Saturday amid suspicions that he covered up for a coach accused of rape and sexual abuse by former figure skaters.
Didier Gailhaguet denies protecting the coach and says he’s not at fault, and cast blame on a former sports minister when he announced his resignation following a special meeting at the federation Saturday. He said no one at the federation was aware of alleged wrongdoing.
Speaking after the meeting in Paris, Gailhaguet said “out of the need for appeasement I have taken … the wise decision to resign from my position as president of the federation.” It was not immediately known who would replace him as FFSG president.
Paris prosecutors opened a criminal investigation this week into accusations from 10-time French champion Sarah Abitbol that she was raped by skating coach Gilles Beyer from 1990-1992, when she was a teen.
Two other former skaters have also accused Beyer, and denounced a lack of support from the federation.
The accusations led to calls for Gailhaguet to resign, notably by France’s current sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, because Beyer was allowed to continue having roles at the French skating federation until 2018 despite having been let go by the French sports ministry in 2001 following a report highlighting repeated “serious acts” committed against young skaters.
The Associated Press does not normally name sexual assault victims. But Abitbol accused Beyer in a book published last week and has also spoken about her personal experience on television.
Gailhaguet served a first term as FFSG president 1998-2004 and started his second stint in 2007. Four members of the FFSG’s executive office, including a treasurer, resigned on Tuesday night.
Maracineanu had met with Gailhaguet on Monday and asked him to resign, saying he “cannot absolve himself of his moral and personal responsibility.”
He defiantly said he would not, and then hit back at Maracineanu in virulent terms when holding a news conference on Wednesday, during which he again said he would not immediately resign.
After finally stepping aside on Saturday, he took another swipe at Maracineanu, maintaining his view that she was making him “a sacrificial victim” for the wrongdoing of others.
Gailhaguet blamed former sports minister Marie-George Buffet, who was in position in 2001, saying she allowed Beyer to continue working despite evidence against him.
Gailhaguet was in charge of the skating federation when Beyer was named France’s team leader during the 2011 World Junior Championships in Gangneung, South Korea. Gailhaguet said it was “probably through naivety or trust” that he allowed Beyer to be given that role, given serious allegations against him previously.
Gailhaguet was pressed on Wednesday as to whether he spoke to parents of the junior skaters involved in the 2011 worlds, out of a responsibility to warn them about Beyer, but said he did not.
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