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Speedskaters: Coach abused athletes, officials failed to react

Complaints filed by more than a dozen current and former members of the U.S. Speedskating team — including five Olympic bronze medalists, pictured above — say verbal, physical and psychological abuse from coaches was relentless, and claim the federation shrugged off the athletes’ grievances and cheated on its taxes.



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"I personally feel treated like a race horse who has been whipped into training and competing past my capacity," one skater wrote anonymously in the initial complaint. Coaches and federation officials "are corrupt and unethical, and I dream of a day when they are exposed for their wrongdoings."

Meanwhile, skater Levi Kirkpatrick separately charged U.S. Speedskating executive director Mark Green­wald on Friday with "code of conduct" violations under federation rules for allegedly threatening Kirkpatrick and failing to properly manage U.S. Speedskating.

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That’s one of the same types of complaints that Kirkpatrick and the other skaters filed against Chun.

Castellano said the federation already has launched an investigation into the abuse charges, being conducted by attorneys from the international law firm White & Case working for free.

The attorneys are in town, she said, and working on the investigation at a time when most skaters are training at the Utah Olympic Oval and officials have arrived for a board of directors meeting over the weekend. That could speed the process, though Castellano emphasized that U.S. Speedskating is not forcing any athlete to talk or not talk to investigators.

"Our intent is to handle it in an unbiased and fair manner," she said.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is aware of the complaints, Castellano said, and is working with U.S. Speedskating to determine how best to address the broad litany of allegations.

"These are obviously serious allegations, and we are working closely with speedskating to look into this and fully understand the issues in this case," said USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky.

Williams has asked the USOC for prompt action on the coaches, with important qualifying races for the upcoming World Cup season scheduled for Sept. 26.

Athletes need to skate those races to qualify for World Cup races, where they earn points to qualify for federation funding and major international meets such as the Olympics and World Championships.


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"Under these circumstances, it is unthinkable that the claimants would have to agree to again be subjected to this abuse as a condition of representing the United States" in the upcoming season, Williams wrote in his letter to the USOC.

Unless the coaches are removed, Williams said athletes "are being faced with the choice of again skating under and for a known abusive coach or ending their racing career."

Tribune reporter Jessica Miller contributed to this report.

mcl@sltrib.com

Twitter: @MCLTribune



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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