Teenage Paralympic swimmer accuses world record-holding teammate of sexual abuse

A Paralympic swimmer has accused a former teammate of physical, verbal and sexual abuse, including during the Paralympic Games in Tokyo last year.

In a lawsuit filed in US District Court in Colorado on Friday, the 19-year-old swimmer, who has autism and intellectual disability, claims he was “violently and repeatedly sexually assaulted and harassed” by his teammate, who has of cerebral palsy.

The swimmer “defied all odds” to become a world-class athlete who “had his life completely shattered” by a teammate who holds multiple gold medals and world records, according to the lawsuit.

He “no longer feels safe training” at the Olympic training center or attending Paralympic Olympic events and left “behind the dream he had dedicated his whole life to, and one of the only environments where he felt appreciated and accepted,” according to the lawsuit. said.

The accused teammate did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit accuses the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the U.S. Center for SafeSport — a nonprofit group charged with responding to and preventing sexual misconduct and abuse — of covering up the alleged abuse and failing to protect the athlete. The lawsuit says the organizations were aware of the previous allegations against the teammate and failed to act due to the athlete’s success in competition.

The lawsuit alleges the committee and SafeSport had received accusations that the swimmer had sexually assaulted other team members.

Representatives of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee called the allegations “extremely concerning” and said it took them very seriously.

“We have made the decision to place two staff members on administrative leave and have also halted the work of several contractors with US Paralympics Swimming,” the committee said in a statement. “We are also continuing to investigate the allegations to help us determine the facts, and we are committed to taking appropriate action.”

Representatives for the US Center for SafeSport and USA Swimming did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The suit seeks a jury trial to determine damages to be paid by the teammate, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and SafeSport.

The lawsuit seeks to bar the accused athlete from participating in U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee activities or events.

Records show officials in August suspended the teammate indefinitely as a member of USA Swimming, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit is the latest allegation that the U.S. Olympic Committee failed to properly respond to accusations of abuse, the complaint says, pointing to findings involving former Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar and a lawsuit in 2018 who accused the committee and USA Taekwondo of sex trafficking.

Previous allegations

The alleged sexual assault against the swimmer began in August 2021, when the athlete – who the complaint says has the mental capacity of a 5-year-old child – was in Tokyo for the Paralympic Games, according to the complaint.

The teammates shared a room in the Olympic Village, the suit says.

The teammate was added to SafeSport’s database in September 2020 for “allegations of misconduct”, but his suspension was lifted ahead of the Games, according to the complaint.

The teammate suggested to officials of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee to facilitate the transfer of the swimmer to the training center in Colorado.

The committee failed to inform the Paralympian’s parents of the previous allegations – an omission the lawsuit calls “unconscionable” given that the two had to live together, according to the complaint.

A “guide and coach”

The Paralympian moved on and the teammate acted as his “chaperone and coach”, according to the suit.

It says the swimmer’s parents were “reprimanded” after contacting the nutrition team to discuss their son’s health and weight loss.

The swimmer began refusing to use the showers, where the sexual abuse allegedly took place, and began writing stories as a means of escape, one of which featured a character named after the teammate, according to the complaint.

When the Paralympian’s parents asked about the story, he told them about the abuse, the complaint states.

The swimmer’s coaches told his parents he refused to shower, “yet the USOPC did not ask why the plaintiff decided to stop showering or whether the showers were a place where the plaintiff didn’t felt unsafe,” according to the complaint.

Accusations at the training center

In August, the accused teammate left the center and the swimmer began sharing details of his abuse allegations with his parents, according to the lawsuit. He alleged that his teammate forced him to pay for his meals, controlled his food intake and kept him away from teammates, the lawsuit says.

After the accused teammate returned to the training facility, the swimmer told his mother that his teammate “shaken him violently, causing him to bang his head against the wall,” according to the complaint.

The athlete has left the training center, where he no longer feels safe, and is not attending Olympic events, the suit says.

Leave a Comment