French figure skater Sarah Abitbol accuses coach of rape in new book

Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images(PARIS) — The Paris prosecutor opened an investigation on Tuesday into allegations made by figure skating champion Sarah Abitbol alleging that her coach raped her when she was a teenager.

The European multi-medalist and world bronze medalist in pairs in 2000 accused her coach, Gilles Beyer, of repeatedly raping her from 1990 to 1992 in her book, Such a Long Silence (Un Si Long Silence), released last week.

“For two years,” writes Abitbol, “you regularly say to my mother, ‘Tonight, I’m babysitting Sarah to train her.’ And you raped me in the parking lot, the locker rooms and in nooks and crannies of the ice rink which I never even suspected existed.”

Since the allegations date back 30 years, they are over the statute of limitation, but the Paris prosecutor is investigating whether any more recent victims exist.

“Beyond the facts mentioned in this book, the investigations, entrusted to the juvenile protection brigade of the Regional Direction of the Judicial Police of Paris, will endeavor to identify any other victims who may have suffered, in the context described, similar offenses,” the Paris prosecutor said in a press release.

In a written declaration sent to French news agency AFP on Friday, Beyer offered his “apologies” and conceded to having had “intimate” and “inappropriate relations” with Abitbol.

“If my memories of their exact circumstances differ from hers, I am aware that, given my duties and his age at the time, these relationships were in any event inappropriate,” Beyer told AFP, according to Le Parisien.

In the aftermath, the Parisian skating club, Français volants, decided to remove Beyer from his executive officer position, while French Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu publicly asked the president of the Ice Sports Federation, Didier Gailhaguet, to quit following the revelations.

The 66-year-old leader of the French skating world told reporters on Wednesday that he would not quit before the conclusions of the investigation, accusing the minister of being “draped in certainties and a mad media coverage.”

Around 50 French athletes of all disciplines, including Olympic medalist Teddy Riner, are mobilizing in support of Abitbol in an open letter to French newspaper Le Parisien.

“Breaking the silence is also serving sport,” they wrote, amplifying allegations of sexual abuse in the French skating community.

Abitbol will reportedly meet with Brigitte Macron at the Elysée Palace this week, after she sent her book to the first lady on Friday.

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