By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – French Sports minister Roxana Maracineanu on Thursday urged abuse victims to speak up after a series of rape and sexual agression allegations in figure skating.
French prosecutors launched a preliminary investigation on Tuesday into former figure skating coach Gilles Beyer for the alleged rape of a minor and sexual aggression.
Former figure skater Sarah Abitbol, a bronze medallist with partner Stephane Bernadis at the 2000 world championships, recently published a book in which she said Beyer had raped her multiple times from 1990 to 1992.
In a statement to Agence France Presse, Beyer admitted to “intimate” and “inappropriate” relations with Abitbol. He could not be reached for comment.
Maracineanu told reporters at Global Sports Week in Paris that she was “launching a solemn appeal to all victims, past and present, to speak up so that we can find the offenders and prosecute them.”
She added that she wanted children to be able to practise sport safely.
Three other skaters have said they were sexually assaulted by former coaches, prompting Maracineanu to ask ice sports federation president Didier Gailhaguet to resign.
Gailhaguet has been president of the FFSG since 1998, with a hiatus between 2004-07.
He has said he made mistakes, but that he was “not at fault” [L8N2A562O].
“This is a serious situation. Educators, athletes, associations, we all need to face the problem and find a solution together,” said Maracineanu.
Tony Estanguet, the head of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee, said they would guarantee a safe games for children.
“It is time to draw conclusions from what has been happening. It is serious, it is shocking and it puts the whole system at risk,” Estanguet told reporters.
“Eveyrone must take their responsibilities.”
French athletes on Tuesday wrote in a letter published by Le Parisien newspaper that it was time to “break the wall of silence” around sexual abuse in sport.
Double Olympic champion Judoka Teddy Riner, former skater Nathalie Pechalat and four-times X Games gold medallist Ophelie David were among those to sign the letter .
Estanguet promised measures would be taken ahead of Paris 2024.
“We will commit to having a safe event,” he said.
“We will check that every person who has access to athletes will go through a thorough background check to make sure they have no record or that they’re not a liability.
“It will allow us to guarantee the safety of the athletes.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)