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SafeSport case involving longtime U.S. snowboard coach intensifies

U.S. Ski and Snowboard allegedly interfered with investigation

Callan Chythlook-Sifsof competes at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Chythlook-Sifsof was the first American athlete to bring allegations against longtime U.S. snowboard coach Peter Foley.
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

U.S. Ski and Snowboard is being accused of interfering with the U.S. Center for SafeSport investigation regarding recent accusations from three former athletes and a former U.S. Ski and Snowboard employee against longtime U.S. snowboard head coach Peter Foley. U.S. Ski and Snowboard President and CEO Sophie Goldschmidt pushed back on the claims, which were alleged in a letter from U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Foley, the head coach of the U.S. snowboard team since it’s 1994 inception, was first accused of sexually and racially inappropriate remarks via a series of Instagram posts from former snowboardcross athlete Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, a 2010 Olympian. Posted just two days before the snowboardcross Olympic event, Foley, who was in China, was restricted by SafeSport from doing his job face-to-face with athletes before the biggest races of their careers.

“The stuff going on with our team was pretty detrimental during the Olympics,” Faye Gulini, a former Ski and Snowboard Club Vail athlete, told the Vail Daily in February. “Getting the appropriate coaching that we needed — we were kind of limited. So, it was difficult.”



During that February discussion with the Vail Daily, Gulini noted the uncomfortable nature of the ordeal.

“On top of that, there’s now this investigation, so we’re kind of thrown in as athletes to talk to the lawyers and kind of pick sides or defend one or the other,” Gulini said.



At the time, she said she didn’t think the accusations were true.

“And I think the timing of it was all too convenient,” she stated. “If there was these issues and they were going on a decade ago, they should have been addressed a decade ago, not two days before the Olympic Games.”

On March 22, ESPN reported that it had interviewed the four women who had filed reports to SafeSport in the last week. One Olympic medalist, choosing to remain anonymous, gave vivid recollections of multiple assaults in the story.

“I was on the edge of the bed and I was asleep and at one point I feel someone sneak in behind me in the bed,” the athlete told ESPN of an experience at the conclusion of a U.S. training camp. She said that she realized it was Foley, and that the coach “reached his left arm over my body and put his fingers inside me.”

ESPN reported on March 23 that U.S. Ski and Snowboard had interfered with SafeSport’s investigation. On Tuesday, ESPN obtained a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) addressed to Goldschmidt and general counsel Alison Pitt.

“The reports shared by the Center are very troubling. They allege that U.S. Ski and Snowboard leadership has been conducting its own investigation outside of the investigation being conducted by the Center, has failed to make notifications regarding sexual misconduct to the Center, and has failed to timely provide the Center with evidence in the possession of U.S. Ski and Snowboard,” Grassley said in the letter.

“Further, it has been reported that U.S. Ski and Snowboard has actively provided misinformation to individuals involved in the investigation in an effort to discourage participation in the Center’s investigation and to attempt to identify who may be participating in the investigation.”

In the final line of the letter, Grassley also mentioned forwarding SafeSport’s concerns to the FBI.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ski and Snowboard responded with a statement of its own.

“U.S. Ski & Snowboard disagrees that it has not acted in accordance with its obligations or with the expectations of the U.S. Center for SafeSport,” it read, according to ESPN. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has fully cooperated with the Center, including reporting all information that was brought to our attention to the Center in real-time.”

According to ESPN, the federation denied withholding information and reported two additional claims to SafeSport after Chythlook-Sifsof’s allegations. Further, it stated that it “began its own diligence into whether Coach Foley’s conduct aligned with the values of U.S. Ski & Snowboard,” and claimed SafeSport was aware of its independent internal investigation.

ESPN claims the federation’s statement “runs contrary to the chain of events detailed to ESPN by athletes and others involved in the investigation, as well as texts and emails provided to ESPN in support of their claims.”

Foley, who oversaw a program that won 35 Olympic medals across seven Winter Games, has denied all wrongdoing, but was suspended by the agency pending a formal investigation. Four days after ESPN began inquiring U.S. Ski and Snowboard about its investigation, the national governing body terminated him.

Finally, on Friday, Alyssa Roenigk and Tisha Thompson reported that Lisa Kosglow, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard board member who was accused of interfering with the sexual misconduct investigation by having contact with two athletes, resigned.

An email sent by Goldschmidt to the board of directors, athletes, staff and other partners states that the federation “learned yesterday” about the contact, information which contradicts a Thursday ESPN interview where Goldschmidt said she and the federation’s general counsel, Pitt, first learned of Kosglow’s alleged actions in February.

When asked to reconcile the inconsistency, Goldschmidt told ESPN in a written statement Thursday evening that U.S. Ski and Snowboard was “made aware of additional details yesterday surrounding Lisa’s contact with the claimants, which appear to be in violation of the SafeSport Code and U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Code of Conduct.”

Goldschmidt has been busy defending the federation since.

“We have a moral and legal obligation to our employees to take these matters incredibly seriously,” Goldschmidt told USA Today Sports on Thursday.

“We’re clear on the lane that we need to act within, but I think where the murkiness comes up is you don’t know what’s going to come out of these conversations. Many of these allegations, not just in ours but from what I’ve observed elsewhere, they’re multi-faceted.

She continued, “But for me, really understanding our culture and making sure we’re doing everything to protect our athletes is as important as it gets. I think we have to investigate and take these very seriously.”


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