Story By: Joseph Golder, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Golder’s News And Sport
A national champion pair skater who claimed her former coach raped her as a teen has revealed she is “relieved” as prosecutors announce an investigation into the case.
The news comes after the recent revelations about child sex abuse in the French ice skating world made international headlines.
In a statement today (Tuesday 4th February), prosecutor Remy Heitz announced that the prosecutor’s office in the French capital have opened a preliminary investigation for rapes and sexual assaults of minor by a person with authority over the victim (‘viols et agressions sexuelles sur mineurs par personne ayant autorite sur la victime’ in French).
This investigation comes following numerous revelation made last week in the French press, notably in sports magazine L’Equipe and in L’Obs.
The L’Equipe investigation focuses on three former ice skaters who claim they were abused and raped by their coaches.
Helene Godard accused, in the sports daily L’Equipe and in L’Obs, Gilles Beyer of having had sex with her when she was 13 and 14 years old. Anne Bruneteaux and Beatrice Dumur accused another former trainer, Michel Lotz, of having abused them when they were 13 years old.
L’Obs interviewed former national champion pair skater Sarah Abitbol about her book “Un si long silence” (‘A very long silence’), published by Plon, and about her claim that Gilley Beyer, her coach at the time, raped her in the early 1990s when she was a minor. Abitbol has won European and world medals.
Abitbol said on French TV channel BFMTV that she is “relieved” after the investigation was announced.
She said: “I am surprised, things, it is true, are happening fast. I am happy, I am relieved, and speaking up has now finally begun to bear fruit.”
Then, visibly moved, she says: “I’m sorry, I am very moved, because this is 30 years of fighting.”
Abitbol, now 44, had posted a picture of the cover of her new book on Twitter on 31st January and captioned it: “To All the victims of sexual violence, so that they break this Killer silence.”
The prosecutor’s statement says: “Beyond the facts mentioned in (the) book, the investigations, entrusted to the juvenile protection brigade of the Regional Direction of the Judicial Police of Paris, will endeavour to identify any other victims who may have suffered, in the context described, similar offences.”
In a written declaration, made public last Friday (31st January), Gilles Beyer, now 62 years old, acknowledged “intimate relations” that were “inappropriate” with the champion. He also apologised to her.
Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu asked Didier Gailhaguet on Monday to resign, in a very rare occurrence.
France’s Sports Minister called for the chief of the country’s Ice Sports Federation to quit for giving senior roles to a former national champion accused of raping teens he was coaching.
Didier Gailhaguet has responded by saying that he will “think about” it.
The French national Olympic committee (‘Comite national olympique et sportif français’; CNOSF) said it “supported entirely the victims of acts of sexual violence.”
In addition, the National Olympic Committee promises that it “will take all its responsibilities in accordance with the provisions of the Sports Code” while the Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu threatened Monday to remove the French Federation of Ice Sports’ delegation.
Sarah Abitbol, with skating partner Stephane Bernadis, was a 2000 World bronze medallist, the 2000 Grand Prix Final silver medallist, a seven-time European medallist (two silver and five bronze medals), and a ten-time French national champion.
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