Former two-time U.S. pairs figure skating champion John Coughlin died on Friday just one day after he was suspended from his sport following allegations that were brought to the attention of SafeSport. Coughlin did not discuss the allegations before his death and many are wondering what exactly happened to the athlete. How did John Coughlin die? Details on the 33-year-old U.S. Olympian's tragic death.
How did John Coughlin die? Details on the 33-year-old U.S. Olympian's tragic death
Recently it came out that John Coughlin was facing three reports of sexual misconduct against him, two of those reports coming from minors according to a source who could not publicly talk about the manner. The first report was filed last month on Dec. 17 and both Coughlin and U.S. Center for SafeSport (an organization founded a few years ago to end abuse in sports) did not delve into detail, but the former Olympian did say the claims against him were "unfounded".
“While I wish I could speak freely about the unfounded allegations levied against me, the SafeSport rules prevent me from doing so since the case remains pending,” Coughlin wrote to USA Today. “I note only that the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation in no way constitutes a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to the allegation."
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Once the reports made it to Safesport in December, Coughlin was restricted. But then on Jan. 17, Coughlin was banned from participating “in any capacity, in any activity or competition” involving the U.S. Olympic Committee or U.S. Figure Skating. That included the national figure skating championships in Detroit next week, the biggest week in figure skating where Coughlin would have been coaching.
The very next day Coughlin committed suicide at his father's home in Kansas City.
After the news of his death broke, a spokesperson from SafeSport said it was “unlikely” that the pending investigation against Coughlin would continue. “I think it’s unlikely given the Center’s mission,” Dan Hill said in a telephone interview with USA Today. “We are not a punitive body. When someone is suspended, it is to keep individuals safe. It’s all about the safety of the reporting party. In this instance, sadly, the safety issue isn’t there now. If there were other parties that perhaps were involved or anything else that would be systemic in nature, that would be a reason to keep it open. In other cases, there have been people who assisted, knew of things, had an obligation to report and didn’t, that kind of thing.”
Soon after the news of Coughlin's death broke, SafeSport began to receive death threats. “Our inboxes are full. We have people combing through everything we’re receiving, social media and email. It’s amazing how the pendulum swings. One day we’re not doing enough to help victims and the next day we’ve done too much,” said Hill.
Hill also mentioned that SafeSport's concern regard's the alleged victims of Coughlin's abuse and how they are handling the news of his suicide. “We are making sure that any reporting parties are getting the support they need at this time. I have worked with people who have gone through something like this and it’s incredibly heavy and difficult. I’ve worked with people who accuse someone and then the accused takes their life. And it happens the other way: the accuser taking their life. It’s all incredibly sad.”