Sexual violence in skating: a report pinpoints the French Federation, justice seized

Six months after having come to light, following the testimony of Sarah Abitbol and other former high-level skaters, the scandal of sexual violence in French skating must continue on the legal ground. This is one of the conclusions of the report of the General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research (IGESR), submitted on July 28 to Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of National Education, Youth and Sports and Roxana Maracineanu, Minister Delegate in charge of Sports. It was the latter which had entrusted in February to the IGESR a fact-finding mission into the management of the facts within the French Federation of Ice Sports (FFSG).

“In conclusion and at the end of the investigations, the facts likely to receive a criminal qualification having been noted by the mission, the head of the IGESR informed the ministers that she was transmitting the report to the public prosecutor at the judicial tribunal of Paris, in accordance with article 40 of the code of criminal procedure ”, specifies the report, as indicated by the ministry on Tuesday 4 August.

If it points to dysfunctions, the report does not however propose to withdraw the delegation of the ministry to the FFSG, now chaired by Nathalie Péchalat. The former ice dance champion succeeded Didier Gailhaguet, who was forced to resign on February 8.

Cases involving 21 coaches

Among their recommendations, the inspectors general still recommend that the FFSG “draw up its own code of ethics and professional conduct, to submit the affiliated clubs to an obligation to inform the Federation in the event of acts of violence committed by leaders or coaches, to better supervise the accommodation of minor skaters away from home by a charter defining its terms. “

The report underlines that the hearings carried out within the framework of the fact-finding mission, the reports on the “signal-sports” platform set up by the Ministry of Sports and the cases revealed in the press have brought to light numerous cases of harassment, physical or verbal violence and alleged sexual assault involving 21 coaches.

“The volume of business thus identified is indicative of practices and behaviors reproduced, which have passed through generations of coaches in the main disciplines of the FFSG, which are figure skating and ice dancing. It is unparalleled internationally, ”the report further notes. He also notes that “there is a real alcohol problem among some skating coaches, the consumption of which can also be a form of early initiation of young athletes. “

An operation favoring “a form of omerta”

It emerges in particular from the hearings that “the federal functioning, strongly contested within a part of the clubs, is marked by compartmentalisation and a strong concentration of the powers really associating only very few leaders and technical executives. “” This operation could only favor a form of omerta on the suspicions that weighed on coaches and could lead to the absence of disciplinary procedures, or even simple investigations, into acts of violence yet denounced by victims, ”say the inspectors in their report.

If the mission notes that “the financial situation of the FFSG and its sporting results have undoubtedly improved”, it also notes that “the numerous controls over the past three decades highlight a lack of transparency in operation, marked internal conflicts in a multidisciplinary federation and real difficulties in the functioning of the national technical direction. “

Didier Gailhaguet disputes the report via a press release from his lawyers

Never quoted in the press release, Didier Gailhaguet is clearly targeted. The president of the FFSG between 1998 and 2020, if we except a break between 2004 and 2007, asks for 300,000 euros in compensation from the Minister for Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, whom he accuses of having forced him to resign in February. Elected on March 14, Nathalie Péchalat is not the recipient of this report.

During the day, Didier Gailhaguet reacted via a press release from his lawyers William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth to contest the content of the report. The defenders of the former president denounce the “partiality” of the IGESR and deplore that “all the criticisms focus exclusively on the person of Mr. Didier Gailhaguet. “

“This inspection did not even see fit to question Mr. Gilles Beyer (Editor’s note: the former coach notably accused of rape by Sarah Abitbol) which we see is at the heart of the report, ”say the lawyers before continuing. “The inspectors no longer generally hesitated to disregard and disregard the documented factual explanations provided by the counsel of Mr. Didier Gailhaguet which should have been such as to rule out the grievances formulated against him. “And to recall that their client” has never been the subject of the slightest accusation of sexual violence or sexual abuse and harassment … “

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