Is it time for the ISU to start banning dangerous people from the sport? | Page 2 | Golden Skate

Is it time for the ISU to start banning dangerous people from the sport?

noskates

Record Breaker
Joined
Jun 11, 2012
Whatever my choice of words was and however that pushed buttons - unless "someone else" sees or has firsthand knowledge of someone being abused it still is up to the victim to testify to the facts. Without that testimony or, God forbid, tape or video, it's ALL hearsay. I worked in an area of law enforcement with teenagers for 10 years and I'm not just conjuring up some talk for discussion. Again, the collective "we" have to create an atmosphere wherein an individual does not feel threatened, embarrassed or "victimized" by speaking up. If the ISU or Safesport does anything contributory it would be to achieve that. Maybe promote better training in human resources and behaviors for coaches? And contrary to someone upthread who maintained that the situation is worse in figure skating than any other sport, I have one word: GYMNASTICS!!
 

saine

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Joined
Jun 11, 2023
Country
Canada
Whatever my choice of words was and however that pushed buttons - unless "someone else" sees or has firsthand knowledge of someone being abused it still is up to the victim to testify to the facts. Without that testimony or, God forbid, tape or video, it's ALL hearsay. I worked in an area of law enforcement with teenagers for 10 years and I'm not just conjuring up some talk for discussion. Again, the collective "we" have to create an atmosphere wherein an individual does not feel threatened, embarrassed or "victimized" by speaking up. If the ISU or Safesport does anything contributory it would be to achieve that. Maybe promote better training in human resources and behaviors for coaches? And contrary to someone upthread who maintained that the situation is worse in figure skating than any other sport, I have one word: GYMNASTICS!!
Calling it hearsay if there's no evidence that satisfies you does not help the culture to change. Words do matter when discussing issues. Please take that into consideration since it is part of the change needed.
 

el henry

Go have some cake. And come back with jollity.
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Mar 3, 2014
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icewhite

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Dec 7, 2022
It's not just in the arts and sports. I was a librarian for a long time, and that's an occupation like nursing where most are women. Nurses have told me about how prevalent bullying and emotional abuse is for them. For librarians, particularly the younger women, there is still the old cliche that they're frustrated and repressed and are "just panting for it" (in spite of the fact that the majority are married and have photos of their kids on their desks). I've worked in large university and government libraries where the new juniors were told not to go down into the cavernous basement stacks alone because attacks by "patrons" were common, and if the level was empty enough for long, there was the occasional rape.

That's terrible to hear.
Personally I have never been in a situation where I was assaulted or felt unsafe apart from one creepy sports teacher using a moment during a swimming lesson. That's not to say that there aren't many cases. But I want to state that it is not normal. I am sorry for all the people who experience such situations so often that they conclude that while despicable it happens all the time and everywhere. I believe that safer and less safe environments exist and that there are things to be done against the prevalence of aggression, that there are factors that influence how often abuse happens.

--
I understood this thread to be about all kinds of abuse, since all kinds of abuse happen in figure skating, and happen all the time. From the top of my head, without even doing research, these are the unpleasant to terrible moments, statements and events I remember from the last years:

- Brendan Kerry, sexual misconduct and alleged rape
- twitter allegation against anonymous but identifiable skater from North America who continues to be heralded as a star by organizers
- Nikolaj Sorensen
- John Coughlin and a bunch of top skaters and officials defending him against all evidence, standing by his side
- Morgan Cipres/ Silvia Fontana and John Zimmermann
- Dalilah Sappenfield
- (lost due to lack of evidence) lawsuit against Mie Hamada because of physical violence, Mie Hamada becoming ISU coach of the year afterwards
- Eteri Tutberidze with all kinds of accounts, often in a neutral or understanding way by her skaters, of enhancing and glorifying eating disorders, neglecting serious injuries etc., despite all this being public knowledge and not even disputed by her she becomes ISU coach of the year
- Anna Levandi, alleged abuse, mostly psychological (shaming and insulting child and teenage skaters), but also neglecting injuries. Levandi herself is a victim of abuse by her own coach
- in an interview Lambiel says physical violence, if it leaves no traces, such as shaking, is acceptable and sometimes necessary in coaching
- Brian Joubert is cleared of allegations, but the remarks he makes afterwards are, to me, showing that he finds coaching methods acceptable that are unacceptable to me
- Tarasova defends physical violence by coaches, including herself, as sometimes necessary and working
- the death of Alexandrovskaja which raises questions

Add many more cases which may not be clear cut abuse but which I find highly problematic - like the way Levito's coach speaks about her, or the way that Kimmy Repond's mother speaks about being thin, etc. etc.

All of this shows that there is an environment which glorifies abuse as necessary, does not set clear cut borders of what is acceptable, especially towards minors, does not outlaw abusers unless they absolutely have to, treats teenagers complaining about (serious) injuries as weak, glorifies eating disorders, glorifies sacrifice of health.
I'm not saying it's the worst. But I'm sure it is among the worst. Back to cycling where recently a young man was able to end his contract because he wasn't part of his team's whatsapp group and felt bullied and many people showed support for him.

So, some factors that I think contribute to problems:
- traditions, especially "soviet style", "culture"
- top athletes being very young and athletes who are already very serious at a very young age
- feds and coaches hold huge power over an athlete's career
- "natural" power imbalance in pairs due to availability of partners and age of partners
- athletes and coaches and teams spend a lot of time with each other, often in rather intimate settings
- required money create many situations where people can feel they have no choice; so do especially powerful camps and coaches
- no real awareness in some important countries, especially (of course not only) in Russia very often the victim is not believed at all, the alleged abuser is immediately seen as the victim
- abused children often become abusers themselves and there are almost no people from the "outside" in the sport to reflect this behaviour
- over-ambitious parents are especially drawn to this sport and may not recognize unsafe situations of their children or justify them as necessary or abuse their children themselves mentally and physically
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
@noskates What was triggering about your choice of words was to put "blame" and "victim" in the same sentence. This language is usually reserved for statements like, Women dsserve to be raped because they wear short skirts." (And for that matter, even first-person complaints by the victim can also be challenged as "hearsay" -- or at ;east, as "he said, she said.")

However, the intent of your post is spot on in the sense of identifying the barriers to progress on this issue. Sports oversight organizations have to tread lightly because of their ambiguous status vis-a-vis law enforcement. Organizations like SafeSport do not, and cannot, adhere to the same standards required in a court of law regarding admissibility of evidence, protection of the rights of the accused, etc. I could imagine a person banned by the ISU turning around and suing SafeSport and the USFSA for a billion dollars for unlawfully destroyng thier career and future employment prospects.

El Henry (a ;awyer) memtioned above the point that coaches and officials must sign agreements to abide by various ethical principles including those brought forward by SafeSport. The problem is that such volumtary agreements can become legally murky when they come into conflict with other legally guaranteed rights. If a rink owner puts up a sign that says "We do not assume any legal or financial responsibility for injuries incurred by children skating at our rink " -- well, as matter of law that is the beginning of the case, not the end.
 

Magill

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
noskates Well, it is the lightness with which we CHOOSE to use words like "blame" or "hearsay" that contributes to creating an atmosphere in which individuals do feel "threatened, embarrassed or "victimized" by speaking up". Because it is such a choice of words which can tip the scales for any particular victim to actually go to the police or other institution, or not, to testify / speak up or not, to seek prosecution or not.
Yes, "we" as fans can contribute to creating an atmosphere. Still, as far as institutions are concerned, like ISU and federations, I would expect much, much more than this - rules, regulations, bodies and procedures to encourage speaking up, to protect victims and whistle blowers, to protect potential victims and, yes, to keep up ethical code and standards of behaviour and to make abuse complaints investigated within the reasonable time limits and make abusers swiftly bear the consequences if found guilty. But rules and procedures change nothing without a strong, strong determination to actually have them implemented which is pretty much at doubt here. I guess it also needs mandatory extensive training for officials and coaches, as well as maybe a psychological assessment of those who want to work within the sport with minors or to hear victims. Just like it is a standard in many other fields. And again - knowing the parties should make you uneligible to be a part of any hearing panel, any decision-making body, by default. As much as abuse and sexual assault is concerned, people who hear the cases do not need to know anything about the sport and should be completely uninvolved in it, complete outsiders as regards the small skating community, best not even being a fan. No one should be forced to make a complaint to a friend of their abuser, no one should be allowed to act as a judge for their colleague or friend. This makes any procedure a laughing stock. Which it actually is, it seems.
 
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Mathematician

Pilgrim on a long journey
Record Breaker
Joined
Aug 8, 2023
- no real awareness in some important countries, especially (of course not only) in Russia very often the victim is not believed at all, the alleged abuser is immediately seen as the victim
Its not that people dont believe them, its that it isnt seen as an issue in the first place. There is no such thing as an accusation or allegation in Russia like there is here, because the way they treat the athletes is already very public knowledge and seen as normal, and the athletes vindicate the behaviour.
 

Magill

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
That's terrible to hear.
Personally I have never been in a situation where I was assaulted or felt unsafe apart from one creepy sports teacher using a moment during a swimming lesson. That's not to say that there aren't many cases. But I want to state that it is not normal. I am sorry for all the people who experience such situations so often that they conclude that while despicable it happens all the time and everywhere. I believe that safer and less safe environments exist and that there are things to be done against the prevalence of aggression, that there are factors that influence how often abuse happens.

--
I understood this thread to be about all kinds of abuse, since all kinds of abuse happen in figure skating, and happen all the time. From the top of my head, without even doing research, these are the unpleasant to terrible moments, statements and events I remember from the last years:

- Brendan Kerry, sexual misconduct and alleged rape
- twitter allegation against anonymous but identifiable skater from North America who continues to be heralded as a star by organizers
- Nikolaj Sorensen
- John Coughlin and a bunch of top skaters and officials defending him against all evidence, standing by his side
- Morgan Cipres/ Silvia Fontana and John Zimmermann
- Dalilah Sappenfield
- (lost due to lack of evidence) lawsuit against Mie Hamada because of physical violence, Mie Hamada becoming ISU coach of the year afterwards
- Eteri Tutberidze with all kinds of accounts, often in a neutral or understanding way by her skaters, of enhancing and glorifying eating disorders, neglecting serious injuries etc., despite all this being public knowledge and not even disputed by her she becomes ISU coach of the year
- Anna Levandi, alleged abuse, mostly psychological (shaming and insulting child and teenage skaters), but also neglecting injuries. Levandi herself is a victim of abuse by her own coach
- in an interview Lambiel says physical violence, if it leaves no traces, such as shaking, is acceptable and sometimes necessary in coaching
- Brian Joubert is cleared of allegations, but the remarks he makes afterwards are, to me, showing that he finds coaching methods acceptable that are unacceptable to me
- Tarasova defends physical violence by coaches, including herself, as sometimes necessary and working
- the death of Alexandrovskaja which raises questions

Add many more cases which may not be clear cut abuse but which I find highly problematic - like the way Levito's coach speaks about her, or the way that Kimmy Repond's mother speaks about being thin, etc. etc.

All of this shows that there is an environment which glorifies abuse as necessary, does not set clear cut borders of what is acceptable, especially towards minors, does not outlaw abusers unless they absolutely have to, treats teenagers complaining about (serious) injuries as weak, glorifies eating disorders, glorifies sacrifice of health.
I'm not saying it's the worst. But I'm sure it is among the worst. Back to cycling where recently a young man was able to end his contract because he wasn't part of his team's whatsapp group and felt bullied and many people showed support for him.

So, some factors that I think contribute to problems:
- traditions, especially "soviet style", "culture"
- top athletes being very young and athletes who are already very serious at a very young age
- feds and coaches hold huge power over an athlete's career
- "natural" power imbalance in pairs due to availability of partners and age of partners
- athletes and coaches and teams spend a lot of time with each other, often in rather intimate settings
- required money create many situations where people can feel they have no choice; so do especially powerful camps and coaches
- no real awareness in some important countries, especially (of course not only) in Russia very often the victim is not believed at all, the alleged abuser is immediately seen as the victim
- abused children often become abusers themselves and there are almost no people from the "outside" in the sport to reflect this behaviour
- over-ambitious parents are especially drawn to this sport and may not recognize unsafe situations of their children or justify them as necessary or abuse their children themselves mentally and physically
I would add one factor seemingly unrelated which we both happen to bring up from time to time. The rare , if not unique, entanglement of feds, coaches and judges combined with subjectivity of the scoring which makes skaters afraid any complaint they make can be retaliated by the "system" in their assignments / scores / favouritisms. Which makes for just one more but huge reason to change the judging system to way more objectified.
 

FlossieH

Medalist
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Country
United-Kingdom
That's terrible to hear.
Personally I have never been in a situation where I was assaulted or felt unsafe apart from one creepy sports teacher using a moment during a swimming lesson. That's not to say that there aren't many cases. But I want to state that it is not normal. I am sorry for all the people who experience such situations so often that they conclude that while despicable it happens all the time and everywhere. I believe that safer and less safe environments exist and that there are things to be done against the prevalence of aggression, that there are factors that influence how often abuse happens.
I originally worked in nursing. As a young female it was quite common to have older male patients touching me inappropriately or doing things like trying to unbutton my uniform or lift my dress. I had a situation once where an elderly man was trying to get inside my uniform to reach my breasts and I asked him not to touch me like that. Unbekown to me his wife had arrived a long time before visiting started and heard me ask him not to (I had literally just said "please don't touch me like that") and complained to the ward sister. The ward sister's response was that if I wasn't happy to be abused or touched in a sexual way I should leave. That was the point at which I started retraining - but I had to stay in nursing until I had done so, which took 4 years.
 

TallyT

Record Breaker
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Country
Australia
I think two different abuse problems are being conflated: the sexual abuse that runs like a scandal-ridden toxic stream through so much of sport (and work, and... yeah, depressing isn't it) and is, as shown every time it is raised, hard to prove because it's hidden in ugly corners, empty rooms and coerced silence by the abuser. But from what I read, the physical, psychological, verbal abuse which this woman is an example of is far more open and 'everyone' knows which coaches and teams are rife with it. There's evidence, the coaches @icewhite speaks of don't even really hide it, just label it 'discipline', their methods have been openly talked of since way before I joined the fandom, everyone on the rinks seem to know it's going on and the skaters are actually groomed to openly exculpate it. The ISU and the feds not only condone it, they reward these people.

We have a tough sport here, to make it these quite often small and fragile looking youngsters have to be titanium, maybe there's a subliminal feeling that titanium people should be able to put up with being knocked into shape like boot camp soldiers and it's 'necessary to make them great'. But look at the hugely successful coaches who have never (I know, I know, as far as we can tell) been known to use brutal measures. It's not necessary, it's just an excuse for weakness as coaches and as human beings.
 

Diana Delafield

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Oct 22, 2022
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Canada
I originally worked in nursing. As a young female it was quite common to have older male patients touching me inappropriately or doing things like trying to unbutton my uniform or lift my dress. I had a situation once where an elderly man was trying to get inside my uniform to reach my breasts and I asked him not to touch me like that. Unbekown to me his wife had arrived a long time before visiting started and heard me ask him not to (I had literally just said "please don't touch me like that") and complained to the ward sister. The ward sister's response was that if I wasn't happy to be abused or touched in a sexual way I should leave. That was the point at which I started retraining - but I had to stay in nursing until I had done so, which took 4 years.
I guess I was luckier in my bosses, in my early library jobs. My first job at 22, I was taking a large atlas down from a shelf and a creepy patron we all avoided offered to "help" by putting his arms around me under my arms. I didn't react, just stretched back sharply as if I were picking in for a triple lutz and stamped on his instep with my high-heeled shoe. He was wearing soft moccasins. As he yelped and doubled over, I spun around and somehow that heavy atlas managed to smack him on the side of the head. At that point my boss, a very large Dragon Lady type who was very protective of her junior staff and who had heard the commotion, appeared in the alcove and refused to listen to the patron's complaints. She confiscated his library card and from then on he had to stand at the front desk while someone brought him whatever book he asked for.

We weren't always that lucky, though. It was quite common for male patrons to squeeze against you while reaching for a book in a narrow aisle of shelving. Or you'd be bent over a card catalogue drawer (in the BC=Before Computer era) and you'd get your butt groped or pinched. And those were just the mild ones you'd shrug off like a pesky mosquito, because it was "normal" behavior then.
 

el henry

Go have some cake. And come back with jollity.
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Joined
Mar 3, 2014
Country
United-States
whole post

To your point, a local politician (an Olympic gold medalist in cycling and at the time an official (president?) with a velodrome) some years ago sued SafeSport for a report that he said caused him to stop his campaign when an opponent pointed it out ( I forget the issue and I forget the result: it was not a permanent ban). It actually survived Safe Sport's motion to dismiss on a lower court level, which surprised me to no end. IME, courts usually love love love to defer to arbitration and mediation, less work for them.

I don't believe the lawsuit proceeded further, but that it survived a dismissal was troubling enough. With results like that, SafeSport will aways prize thorough over fast.

The same person has recently been arrested for stalking an ex girlfriend. Make of that what you will.
 

Skater Boy

Record Breaker
Joined
Feb 24, 2012
I think that the ISU needs to really to start looking at handing out bans for people are truly dangerous to other people. The sport needs to truly needs to start protecting the athletes that participate in the sport. We have heard of skaters being abused by coaches, officials, and even other skaters. This year's past worlds we had one skater being creditably accused of sexual assault, a coach that had been linked to 2 major dopping cases and has been accused of being abusive on top of that, and quite a number of coaches who have been accused of mentally and emotionally abusing their students. This needs to stop. The ISU could create a code of conduct that everybody in the sport has to follow. Basic rules on how people should treat one another. Anybody who violates the rules will get a ban either for a period of time or permanently depending on facts of each case brought to a board that the ISU should set up to hear cases. Give the accused due process but the people who violate the rules will be.banned from participating in the sport. This will do more to protect skaters than knee jerk reactions. A hotline should be set up to allow skaters and other concerned individuals to reach out for help because even the best of cases it has been taking years to ban people from organizations like safe sport, and skaters should not have to wait that long to get real help from someone. It is sad that has to come to this but I am tired of watching skaters suffering in silence while they are being abused by others. I love this sport I want positive WE have to have due process.
 

AxelLover

On the Ice
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Aug 24, 2016
Country
Czech-Republic
I think that coaches and skaters accused of abuse or sexual assault should be banned only if they are found guilty at a court trial.
 

Mathematician

Pilgrim on a long journey
Record Breaker
Joined
Aug 8, 2023
I think that coaches and skaters accused of abuse or sexual assault should be banned only if they are found guilty at a court trial.
If they are found guilty at a court trial then they have bigger problems than a competitive ban.

Competitive bans should be given out under any evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and/or repeat accusation. Waiting on years of court procedure will be very lacklustre when it comes to athlete protection. Its a very difficult issue and will never be perfect.
 

adhara

On the Ice
Joined
Mar 20, 2024
Country
Finland
Just to clarify some things that have been mentioned above regarding SafeSport in the United States.

If a criminal offense is reported to SafeSport, they do refer it to the proper authorities as well as giving out a ban.

It is perfectly reasonable for a victim to be willing to engage with SafeSport trials but not with law enforcement which is what happened in a few of the cases mentioned above. Victims are perfectly free to not want to be investigated.

Additionally, SafeSport rules are stricter than that of the law. As a coach, I am not allowed to drive or text my students one on one. That is not illegal, it is just a SafeSport violation (equally career ruining, of course).
 

Cutting the ice

On the Ice
Joined
Nov 14, 2012
I think that coaches and skaters accused of abuse or sexual assault should be banned only if they are found guilty at a court trial.
I often sit on our regulatory College's discipline panel. We occasionally deal with members of my profession who have been accused of physical / sexual / verbal abuse of clients and/or employees. Sometimes these members have also been criminally charged. We don't pay attention to the findings of the criminal case where the burden of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt". Rather the discipline hearing is to determine a finding based on a "balance of probabilities". So the onus on proving the allegation is significantly different than in a criminal court. It is quite possible - and does happen in my experience - that a person may be found not criminally guilty, but is still found guilty of professional misconduct in the hearing.

We also must be very careful to not equate accusation with guilt. People's lives can be ruined (both sides) by assuming guilt or innocence before there has been a finding by a duly appointed impartial, trained panel of the professional organization tasked with regulating that profession (e.g. Skating Coaches).

I should add that penalties are usually determined after the hearing of the merits has concluded and the member has been found guilty of one or more of the allegations. Penalties can take into account previous findings (including complaints) against the member. It can also take into account criminal findings of guilt, risk to the public and whether the member is governable (admits guilt, efforts at rehabilitation and evidence of improvement). Lifetime bans are definitely the most severe punishment that can be delivered and usually requires a pattern of serious professional misconduct beyond a single case, although not always. But in the end, the penalty must serve to protect the public, either through efforts at rehabilitation and a punitive penalty (e.g., temporary suspension of their license) of the member, or when that is likely not to effectively protect the public - a lifetime suspension.
 
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