Olympian Ashley Wagner alleged she was sexually assaulted by late fellow figure skater John Coughlin when she was 17 and he was 22, claiming he went to her bed and groped her when she was asleep after a party with other athletes in Colorado.
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Wagner, now 28, came forward in a first-person essay and video piece for USA Today published Thursday, in which she said she "wrestled with using John's name."
"But a name can shape so much of how my story is perceived," Wagner wrote. "Without it, I know people will question my credibility."
Coughlin, a pairs champion and coach, killed himself in January, days after he was given an "interim suspension" by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an organization that monitors athlete safety in an effort to prevent abuse.
Wagner went on to say her story was "not about a name."
"This is about the environment that allowed for that act to happen. I want the issue to feel real to people, and for them to understand the dynamics of my sport, where uncomfortable power imbalances thrive to this day," Wagner wrote.
SafeSport ended its investigation into Coughlin after his death, but said in a March statement it found evidence that figure skating has a culture "that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long" and it "cannot be allowed to continue," per ESPN.
Additionally, former figure skater Craig Maurizi testified in Congress in 2018 that the U.S. Figure Skating Association treated him "with the same disdain, disrespect and disbelief" seen by victims of former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar when he alleged sexual abuse by a coach in 1999, saying figure skating had the same problems with handling these allegations as gymnastics.
"What happened to Ashley should not happen to anyone, period. Ashley is incredibly strong; not just to have the courage to come forward with her story, but to share her experience publicly to help others. Ashley recently spoke at U.S. Figure Skating athlete safety seminars and her experience and message of empowerment had a profound impact on skaters and their parents," Barbara Reichert, U.S. Figure Skating spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement.
"Further," Reichert continued, "Ashley’s perspective has helped us expand the scope of our athlete safety initiatives and education and words cannot express how much we appreciate her sharing her story with our members."
Wagner said she felt compelled to come forward after a 13-year-old won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in late January, shortly after Coughlin's death, leading Wagner to consider how many young girls and boys are in the sport and potentially vulnerable to abuse.
"It was in that moment that I knew I had to come forward with my story. I want to make this sport safer for those kids," Wagner wrote. "I went to U.S. Figure Skating and proposed changes to athlete education and wellness designed to keep these young skaters as safe as possible."
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Believe women. In 2008 I was sexually assaulted. I didn’t understand what happened to me or what it really meant. I feel so strongly that people need to talk more about these experiences, that they need to have a bright light turned on the dark corners where they thrive. This happens all too often to both men and women, and we need to do better for our next generation. Talk about this, make this feel real so that we can help out those who need it! Read more about my story in the link in my bio 💕
Wagner is not the first skater to publicly claim Coughlin assaulted her. In May, his former skating partner Bridget Namiotka, who is five years younger than Coughlin, claimed he sexually abused her for two years. Attorney John Manly, who represents multiple women who claim Coughlin abused them, confirmed to ESPN that he represents Namiotka.
Wagner also posted about her story on Instagram on Thursday, writing, "I feel so strongly that people need to talk more about these experiences, that they need to have a bright light turned on the dark corners where they thrive. This happens all too often to both men and women, and we need to do better for our next generation."