Bobsled’s international federation is investigating triple Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor‘s claims of racism in the sport.
Meyers Taylor, a medalist for the U.S. at the last three Winter Olympics, wrote in a first-person TeamUSA.org story that a coach from another country “was recorded saying several racist statements” and that her name “was drug through the mud.”
“The basic premise was that there were no good black drivers and that black athletes needed to stay in the back of the sled as they simply lacked the mental capacity to drive,” wrote Meyers Taylor, a brakewoman at her first Olympics and a driver at the last two. “Furthermore, the coach felt the need to specifically bring up my name several times, and this after I had won an Olympic medal and two world championships as a pilot, and even earned a spot on the US Men’s team as a 4-man pilot.”
The coach no longer works for that federation and, Meyers Taylor believes, hasn’t been rehired elsewhere in the sport. She did not name the coach or the federation. She stood by her statements in a Tuesday phone interview.
Meyers Taylor also wrote that a manufacturer of one of the fastest sleds on tour “refuses to sell to black pilots” and has been quoted saying, “If I wanted to see a monkey drive a sled, I’d go to the zoo.”
“It doesn’t matter how fast he’s able to make a sled, I’d give up a gold medal before driving a sled made by him,” Meyers Taylor wrote. “And yet there currently sits one of these sleds in the Team USA garage, serving as a constant reminder to me where people who look like me stand in this sport.”
A USA Bobsled and Skeleton (USABS) spokesperson confirmed the sled is in a Team USA garage and owned by an athlete, not the federation.
“We spoke with Elana about the situation, and she does not recommend that we remove the sled from the garage,” the spokesperson said. “The athlete who owns the sled was not aware of the alleged situation with the manufacturer, and its presence does not have ill intentions.
“I also want to reiterate that USABS condemns all forms of racism and discrimination, and we take this very seriously.”
The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) said it made immediate contact with Meyers Taylor and created a task force to investigate.
Meyers Taylor confirmed that the U.S. and international bobsled federations communicated with her. She is satisfied that both are taking her concerns seriously, noting the task force is a great first step. She is pushing the IBSF to create programs that allow minority athletes opportunities for success without obstacles.
“The biggest thing is to really look at the sport of bobsled, and all sports, and try and analyze where is racism and where it can be improved to prevent people with racist ideas and racial biases from having as much power as they do,” she said. “Racism occurs to all different types of people. Sport isn’t immune.”
Meyers Taylor, who sat out last season due to pregnancy, plans to compete next season, bringing 4-month-old son Nico with her on tour.
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