The U.S. Center for SafeSport is currently investigating allegations of sexual abuse involving French Olympic pairs skater Morgan Cipres, who is accused of abusing a 13-year-old American female figure skater. Furthermore, his coaches, John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana, are accused of attempting to coverup the abuse and intimidating the girl and her family.
Cipres is accused of direct messaging two explicit photos of himself to the girl on Instagram in December of 2017. He and the girl skated at the same rink in Wesley Chapel, Florida - AdventHealth Center Ice. The girl and her parents have also accused Vinny Dispenza, a coach at the rink, of telling the girl and another underage victim to message him asking for photos in exchange for pizza.
According to the girl and her parents, Zimmerman and Fontana were notified of the photos in a meeting with Dispenza. Instead of contacting the police or SafeSport, the two are accused of pressuring the girl and her family to keep quiet about the allegations while Cipres and his pairs partner prepared for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Zimmerman and Fontana are accused of intimidating the girl and blaming her for the pictures because she was "a pretty girl and men have their needs." They also threatened to shame her on social media, according to the girl. Dispenza is also accused of telling her that she would never skate again if she reported the abuse.
Police attempted to interview the girl, but she refused to discuss what had happened. Her parents eventually removed her from the rink. No further action was ever taken by the police.
Zimmerman, Fontana, and Dispenza all continue to work at AdventHealth Center Ice and Cipres has continued training there.
Sexual abuse involving well-known figures in Olympic sports has become a major problem, with reports of abuse involving coaches, team doctors, and athletes. Attorney Michael Haggard represents victims of youth sports sex abuse in civil lawsuits all around the country. When we asked him about youth sport sexual abuse he contributed the following:
Several high-profile individuals in the Olympic sports world have been accused of sexually abusing young athletes. The most publicized case involved USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted and sentenced to prison for sexually abusing hundreds of young gymnasts. Coaches and others involved in these sports must take the threat of sexual abuse seriously and do everything they can to keep these athletes safe.
In some of these cases, third parties have been accused of enabling sexual predators in Olympic sports. When organizational or third-party negligence has caused victims to suffer preventable abuse, these victims likely have a strong case for a lawsuit. Several have been filed for sexual abuse in Olympic sports, including many from victims of Nassar.
NOTE: Michael Haggard, does not represent any of the survivors of abuse in the above story.