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Speedskating: Gabel resigns from committees after abuse claims

Olympic medalist steps down from leadership roles in latest U.S. Speedskating scandal.

First Published Mar 06 2013 04:06 pm • Last Updated Mar 08 2013 09:55 pm

Olympic medalist Andy Gabel stepped down from leadership roles with the International Skating Union and the National Speedskating Hall of Fame after being accused of a sexual relationship with an underage skater in the 1990s.

ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta said Monday that Gabel quit as chairman of the short-track technical committee, which governs the frenzied sport best known in the United States for the achievements of Apolo Anton Ohno, the most decorated Winter Olympian in the country’s history.

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"[Gabel] has communicated that he resigned," Cinquanta told The Associated Press. "I cannot say anything else. It would be inappropriate if I would make some further comment as he is no longer with us."

U.S. Speedskating spokeswoman Tamara Castellano confirmed Monday that Gabel also resigned from the Hall of Fame committee, which oversees the selection process for inductees.

Gabel is a member of the Milwaukee-based hall, but it wasn’t immediately clear if there was a provision to remove someone who has received the honor.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Speedskating board held its regular monthly meeting by conference call Monday and was expected to discuss the allegations. The governing body released a statement reiterating it would look into the allegations made by speedskater Bridie Farrell.

"U.S. Speedskating will not tolerate abuse of any kind and we intend to investigate these claims, and any others that arise, thoroughly," it said.

The 48-year-old Gabel issued a statement to media outlets in Chicago and Milwaukee saying he "displayed poor judgment in a brief and inappropriate relationship with a female teammate."

He has not responded to several requests for comment from the AP.

Gabel competed in four Olympics as a short track skater, including 1988 when it was a demonstration sport. He was part of a silver medal-winning relay team at the 1994 Lillehammer Games and, after his skating career ended, served a term as president of U.S. Speedskating.

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Farrell told WUWM, a Milwaukee public radio station, that she was 15 and Gabel 33 when their relationship began in 1997. She said it continued over several months and she knew it was wrong, but she was "star-struck" by the attention Gabel gave her.

The case is the latest in a series of sexual abuse scandals involving U.S. Olympic sports.

Most notably, swimming has been rocked by allegations of numerous coaches having sexual relationships with underage athletes, prompting that governing body to go public with the list of individuals receiving lifetime bans. A former national team director is among those on the list.

U.S. Speedskating has endured a difficult season that began with a dozen national team members accusing short track head coach Jae Su Chun of physical, emotional and verbal abuse. Also, he was accused of ordering skater Simon Cho to sabotage the skates of a Canadian rival.

Chun has denied all allegations. Investigators commissioned by U.S. Speedskating said they didn’t find evidence that Chun engaged in patterns of abuse, or that he ordered the skate tempering. Still, Chun and his assistant resigned and accepted suspensions through the Sochi Olympics next year.

Cho still faces disciplinary proceedings.

The American team also is dealing with the likely loss of its two biggest stars from the Vancouver Games. Ohno has not competed since 2010 nor given any indication he’ll attempt a comeback. Katherine Reutter announced her retirement last month at age 24, citing the toll of dealing with numerous injuries.

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

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