Already in turmoil after Sarah Abitbol’s book, the world of figure skating will be the subject of additional investigations, with a new investigation by the Paris prosecutor’s office, following a damning report from the General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Sports.
This procedure was initiated on September 4 for “rape” and “sexual assault” by a person with authority over a minor, the prosecution announced Thursday.
It is the publication at the end of January of the work of the former skater Sarah Abitbol, ”Un si long silence” (Plon), which served as a detonator and shook the French Federation of Ice Sports (FFSG), going as far as to bring down its all-powerful president.
Sarah Abitbol accused in her book her ex-trainer Gilles Beyer of having raped and sexually assaulted her several times between 1990 and 1992, a period now covered by the statute of limitations.
Following these revelations, the Ministry of Sports had carried out an administrative investigation with the General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research (IGESR).
This highlighted the suspicions weighing on 21 FFSG coaches, including 12 implicated for “acts of harassment or sexual assault”. Of these, three were sentenced in the past to firm or suspended prison terms.
Seven other cases concerned “physical or verbal violence”.
– “Promote omerta” –
In early August, the Ministry of Sports announced that the IGESR had transmitted the conclusions of its investigation to the courts. He added that these various cases had already led to the placement in pre-trial detention of a trainer in February and five administrative measures prohibiting practice in April.
“The volume of cases” identified in the report “is revealing of practices and behaviors reproduced, which crossed generations of coaches in the main disciplines of the FFSG”, had underlined the ministry.
“It is unparalleled internationally,” he continued.
The fact-finding mission scratched the federal functioning marked by “a strong concentration of powers”, which could only “promote a form of omerta on the suspicions that weighed on coaches and could lead to the ‘absence of disciplinary procedures “.
For the time being, the investigation by the Paris prosecutor’s office, entrusted to the Brigade for the protection of minors, aims to “identify and locate potential victims and suspects and determine the competent prosecutors” in France for each case, but a possible extension to facts of “non-denunciation of a crime or misdemeanor” cannot be ruled out.
The investigation targeting Gilles Beyer is, for its part, still open. Several hearings, including that of the mother of a young skating champion, who accuses this coach of sexual harassment and blackmail in 2017 and 2018, have already taken place. The investigations aim to identify other potential victims.
After the revelations of Sarah Abitbol, Didier Gailhaguet, president for more than twenty years of the FFSG, was forced to resign from his post in early February, under pressure from the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu.
Former skater Nathalie Péchalat was elected in mid-March to succeed him.
When the IGESR report was unveiled, lawyers for Didier Gailhaguet, Me Vincent Brengarth and Me William Bourdon, denounced his “bias”.
They had thus deplored that “all of the criticisms focus exclusively on the person of Mr. Didier Gailhaguet”, who was accused of not having alerted to these suspicions, of which he would have been aware, at least in part. .