Three former U.S. Ski & Snowboard team members have sued their former coach, Peter Foley, for sex trafficking and harassment.
The national federation, its former CEO Gale “Tiger” Shaw and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic committee also were named in the lawsuit, which claims Foley, Shaw and the sporting organizations conspired to engage in, enable and cover up repeated acts of sexual misconduct.
Three-time Olympian Rosey Fletcher, 2010 Olympian Callan Chythlook-Sifsof and another former national teamer in Erin O’Malley are the plaintiffs. They claim Foley used his position to “coerce sexual acts through force, manipulation, emotional abuse, intimidation, and retaliation,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed last Thursday in Los Angeles.
“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” a U.S. Ski & Snowboard spokesperson said. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it.”
The USOPC also had not yet received the complaint as of Thursday and would not comment “on any specific details at this time,” though a spokesperson said the organization “takes every allegation of abuse very seriously.”
The lawsuit comes after three former athletes and a former employee of USSS accused Foley of sexual misconduct last March. Foley already was being investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct that emerged during the Olympics in February.
Fletcher claims in the lawsuit that Foley sexually assaulted her at a U.S. team camp when she was 19 years old. O’Malley says she was “sexually assaulted and harassed at USSS- and USOPC-sponsored competitions by Foley, who exploited their unequal power dynamic,” with the mental and verbal abuse starting when she was just 15 years old.
“Had the USSS taken the safety of their young athletes and employees seriously, Foley’s behavior could have been prevented,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, for nearly twenty years, coaches and executives at USSS enabled Foley’s behavior, refused to act, and helped cover up Foley’s behavior, allowing him to continue his pattern of abuse.”
Chythlook-Sifsof said in a series of Instagram posts during the Beijing Olympics that Foley had “taken naked photos of female athletes for over a decade” and had made a sexually explicit comment about her to another woman in 2014.
She also discussed a separated incident in the lawsuit, revealing that she was “sexually assaulted and raped by a male coach nearly three times her age from an opposing team” when she was 16. That assault took place during her first junior world championship event in Zermatt, Switzerland, in 2005.
“Although it was not a USSS coach that sexually assaulted Callan, USSS set the stage for the assault to occur and failed to change the toxic environment,” the lawsuit reads.
Sex trafficking, while generally understood as the arrangement of sex for money, legally can mean the exchange of sex for “anything of value,” Sigrid McCawley, the lead attorney representing the three snowboarders, told the Los Angeles Times.
“You have athletes who are being promised things like a position in the Olympics, a spot on the team and things of significant value in exchange for participating in this abuse and remaining quiet,” McCawley said. “This is well suited for a [sex trafficking] claim.”