Figure Skating Coach Richard Callaghan Accused of Sexual Abuse

Figure Skating Coach Richard Callaghan Accused of Sexual Abuse

Figure Skating Coach Richard Callaghan Accused of Sexual Abuse

Figure Skating Coach Richard Callaghan Accused of Sexual Abuse

Legal pressure on Richard Callaghan, a disgraced elite American figure skating coach, ratcheted up Monday with the filing of a lawsuit accusing of him of years of sexual abuse and accusing the sport’s national governing body of not doing enough to stop it.

The lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court in Buffalo by Craig Maurizi, 57, a prominent coach and a former skating student of Mr. Callaghan’s. Mr. Maurizi first told The New York Times in 1999 that Mr. Callaghan, 74, had begun an inappropriate sexual relationship with him when Mr. Maurizi was a minor and that the exploitive relationship continued, off and on, for years as the two men became coaching colleagues.

Mr. Callaghan, best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and coaching Todd Eldredge to a world title and six national championships, has long denied any inappropriate conduct.

Last August, Mr. Callaghan was barred from figure skating permanently by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit organization created to track and investigate the abuse of athletes. The ban followed another allegation of sexual misconduct made against Mr. Callaghan by Adam Schmidt, a former skating student. Mr. Schmidt became the fourth male skater to publicly accuse Mr. Callaghan of improper behavior during a period between the early 1990s and the early 2000s.

Mr. Callaghan appealed his penalty to an independent arbitrator. And last December, it was reduced to a three-year suspension.

Monday’s lawsuit also seeks damages from U.S. Figure Skating; the Professional Skaters Association, a coaching organization; and the Buffalo Skating Club, where Mr. Maurizi began taking lessons as a 13-year-old from Mr. Callaghan in 1976 and said he was abused from the age of 14.

Mr. Callaghan’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment. U.S. Figure Skating and the Buffalo Skating Club declined to comment. The Professional Skaters Association said it had not received an official notification of the lawsuit, adding that it was “committed to the safety of athletes and reports all claims of abuse to the U.S. Center for SafeSport and local authorities.”

The suit was filed under New York’s Child Victims Act. It was signed into law last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and was intended to give survivors of sexual abuse a chance to sue adults whom they accuse of abusing them years ago.

“I need for Richard Callaghan to be stopped,” Mr. Maurizi said in an interview on Monday. “I’m committed to stop giving him the opportunity to abuse anyone else.”

According to the lawsuit, as the marriage of Mr. Maurizi’s parents broke up, Mr. Callaghan began isolating him in Buffalo and grooming him for what turned out to be years of sexual abuse. Mr. Callaghan tempted Mr. Maurizi with pornography and alcohol, which escalated to sexual banter, forcible touching of Mr. Maurizi’s genitals, mutual masturbation and oral and anal sex, the lawsuit said.

Mr. Maurizi began using drugs and developed an eating disorder to cope with Mr. Callaghan’s control over his life and “constant” sexual abuse, the lawsuit said.

Like gymnastics and swimming, figure skating has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals. Accusations of impropriety against Mr. Callaghan and John Coughlin, a former elite skater who died by suicide in January 2019, have gained widespread attention.

Ilene Jaroslaw, Mr. Maurizi’s lawyer, said in an interview Monday that accusations of sexual abuse by Mr. Callaghan were widely known but were willfully ignored by the skating establishment because of his success as a coach.

“The interest of the athletes is something that has been forgotten about for a very long time,” said Ms. Jaroslaw, the chair of the white collar criminal defense practice at Phillips Nizer LLP. “The emphasis on winning at the expense of the best interests of these developing young people has been the wrong priority for too long.”


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