Figure skater to Congress: I reported sexual abuse and was ignored

PHOTO: Figureskater Craig Maurizi, gymnast Jordyn Wieber and Jamie Dantzcher and speed skater Bridie Farrell testify during a Senate committee hearing, April 18, 2018 in Washington.PlayChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
WATCH Figure skater to Congress: I reported sexual abuse and was ignored

A former figure skater urged lawmakers on Wednesday to investigate the U.S. Olympic Committee’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse made by its young athletes.

Gymnastics, he said, isn’t the only sport with a problem.

In testimony delivered before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security, a copy of which can be read below, Craig Maurizi said figure skating’s governing body ignored him when he reported being sexually abused by the sport’s top coach.

“My story is a case history of the power of abusers and organizations to silence powerless child victims of sexual abuse in the relentless pursuit of money and medals,” Maurizi said. “When I [came forward], I was treated with the same disdain, disrespect and disbelief by the U.S. Figure Skating Association as many of the Larry Nassar victims who tried to report him to USA Gymnastics or Michigan State University.”

Attorney John Manly, who represents Maurizi and many of the athletes who accused Nassar of abuse, called for accountability for both abusers and enablers.

PHOTO: Figure skater Craig Maurizi recounts his sexual abuse at the hands of his coach when he was 13 years old while testifying before a Senate committee on Capitol Hill April 18, 2018 in Washington.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Figure skater Craig Maurizi recounts his sexual abuse at the hands of his coach when he was 13 years old while testifying before a Senate committee on Capitol Hill April 18, 2018 in Washington.

“These brave athletes and their families expect this to be the beginning of a process of accountability for their abusers and their enablers throughout the Olympic movement,” Manly said in a statement. “Their testimony will assist Congress in exercising its oversight authority to protect current and future athletes from physical, emotional and sexual abuse.”

As detailed in an ABC News investigation, Maurizi accused Richard Callaghan, who coached Tara Lipinski to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, of sexually abusing him when he was one of his students more than a decade earlier.

He reported the abuse to the sport’s national governing body, U.S. Figure Skating, in 1999 and told his story to several major media outlets. But Callaghan issued strong denials, insisting he had not abused Maurizi or engaged in any sexual misconduct. U.S. Figure Skating dismissed Maurizi’s claims without interviewing Maurizi, saying that he had waited too long to bring his complaint.

Maurizi filed a new complaint to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s misconduct watchdog, in January. The sport suspended Callaghan in March, pending an ongoing investigation of those earlier allegations, raising questions from leading lawmakers about why he was allowed to continue coaching for the past two decades.

When asked by ABC News following his suspension about the history of allegations against him, Callaghan said he had no further comment.

“That’s 19 or 20 years ago,” he said. “I have nothing to say.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire who has been calling for a special committee to investigate the USOC’s handling of sexual abuse allegations, called the governing body’s conduct “outrageous.”

“Why was it not investigated when it was reported? Why was Callaghan allowed to continue to coach for another 20 years before forcing him to step aside?” Shaheen said. “Those are the kind of questions we need to ask, and we need answers for those athletes that have been abused.”

A spokesperson for U.S. Figure Skating told ABC News that the organization has been "fully supportive" of Maurizi since he filed a new grievance and acknowledged that its leaders have recently met with Maurizi.

"As Craig stated today, when he came forward with his allegations in 1999, U.S. Figure Skating rules did not allow the case to be considered, and because of that, U.S. Figure Skating recognized the need for strict rules and policies to handle and report sexual abuse and misconduct and enacted them within a year," Barbara Reichert said in a statement to ABC News. "Since that time, U.S. Figure Skating has had a mandatory reporting policy and zero tolerance for abuse and harassment, and for nearly two decades has made public banned and suspended lists as a resource for parents, clubs and the general public as they vet those who may work with children."

PHOTO: Figureskater Craig Maurizi, gymnast Jordyn Wieber and Jamie Dantzcher and speed skater Bridie Farrell testify during a Senate committee hearing, April 18, 2018 in Washington.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Figureskater Craig Maurizi, gymnast Jordyn Wieber and Jamie Dantzcher and speed skater Bridie Farrell testify during a Senate committee hearing, April 18, 2018 in Washington.

During the hearing, Maurizi expressed his dismay that no one stepped in to help him.

“When I think back to my particular situation there’s no way that dozens, if not hundreds of people didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “My question would be -- 'How do you live with yourself? How can you be so weak?'”

Maurizi also warned that predators still exist in the figure skating community.

“Rampant is a bit strong, but I’d say it’s very prevalent in the sport,” said Maurizi. "Coaches ... operate almost at complete autonomy. There's no mechanism in place.... Without any enforcement, people are able to do as they please."

Lawmakers, in turn, vowed to proceed with their investigation until they could get to the bottom of why the abuse was allowed to continue undeterred for so long.

“You were let down by individuals you trusted, but who chose to ignore you, to look the other way, or to deliberately cover up the abuses you suffered because their priorities, simply put, was not your safety or your well-being,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who chaired the panel holding the hearing.

The scandal surrounding sexual abuse in sports has continued to grow since dozens of athletes reported a disturbing pattern of misconduct by Nassar that went unchecked by the people and institutions charged with protecting those athletes.

PHOTO: A woman weeps while listening to figure skater Craig Maurizi recount his sexual abuse at the hands of his coach when he was 13 years old while testifying before a Senate subcommittee on Capitol Hill April 18, 2018 in Washington.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A woman weeps while listening to figure skater Craig Maurizi recount his sexual abuse at the hands of his coach when he was 13 years old while testifying before a Senate subcommittee on Capitol Hill April 18, 2018 in Washington.

Maurizi, who later turned to coaching and still trains top skaters, says those trailblazing gymnasts gave him the courage to share his story again as well.

“Olympic medalists including Jamie Dantzscher and Jordyn Wieber revealed a pattern of disbelief and disrespect by their Olympic governing body, USA Gymnastics, that was so similar to what I experienced from U.S. Figure Skating that it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” Maurizi said. “These brave women gave me the courage to speak out again and I want to publicly thank them for it today.”

Maurizi closed with a direct appeal to lawmakers to exercise greater oversight of the federally chartered U.S. Olympic Committee.

“I respectfully ask you to find out why the USOC did nothing for decades while reports of child sexual abuse in many Olympic sports were ignored,” Maurizi said. “Who was responsible for this tragedy and how will they be held accountable?”

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