Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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U.S. Figure Skating to Pay $1.45 Million to Ex-Skater Who Says He Was Abused

Adam Schmidt had accused U.S. Figure Skating, the sport’s national governing body, of failing to protect him from sexual abuse by Richard Callaghan, a once-prominent coach of Olympians.

U.S. Figure Skating has reached a $1.45 million settlement with a former skater who had accused the organization of failing to protect him from sexual abuse by Richard Callaghan, a once-prominent coach of Olympians.

The former skater, Adam Schmidt, had filed a lawsuit in San Diego in 2019 that said that Mr. Callaghan had repeatedly abused him from 1999 to 2001, beginning when Mr. Schmidt was 14 years old.

Mr. Schmidt became the fourth male skater to have publicly accused Mr. Callaghan of improper behavior from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.

The lawsuit accused U.S. Figure Skating, the sport’s national governing body, of having known that Mr. Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate behavior with other minors and not reporting him to the authorities, as required by law.

According to the settlement, U.S. Figure Skating and its insurer agreed to pay Mr. Schmidt $1.45 million “without admitting fault, liability, wrongdoing or misconduct of any kind.”

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it did not comment on litigation.

“U.S. Figure Skating fully supports all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and encourages anyone who has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to immediately report it to local law enforcement, the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating,” the statement said.

Mr. Schmidt told ABC News that the settlement “speaks for itself.”

“People don’t settle things for millions of dollars for nothing,” he said.

Mr. Schmidt’s lawyer, John Manly, said it was significant that U.S. Figure Skating did not apologize as part of the settlement. He said that was indicative of “institutional arrogance combined with a view of skaters as a disposable commodity.”

“That’s a toxic brew for an organization that’s supposed to protect children under its care,” Mr. Manly said on Thursday. Mr. Schmidt, he said, was “very concerned about children in the sport today — that they aren’t safe — and he wants a cultural change in the organization.”

The settlement was finalized late last year, Mr. Manly said, after Mr. Schmidt reached a $1.75 million settlement with Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester, Mich., where Mr. Schmidt said Mr. Callaghan had abused him.

Mr. Callaghan, who has long denied any wrongdoing, could not be reached for comment on Thursday evening, and lawyers who have represented him did not immediately respond to messages.

Mr. Callaghan was best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and for coaching Todd Eldredge to a world championship, six United States titles and three Olympic appearances.

In 1999, Craig Maurizi, a prominent coach and former student of Mr. Callaghan’s, told The New York Times that Mr. Callaghan had begun abusing him when he was 15. Two other skaters also accused Mr. Callaghan of inappropriate behavior in the Times article.

In August 2019, Mr. Callaghan was permanently barred from figure skating by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit organization created to track and investigate the abuse of athletes.

The ban came after Mr. Maurizi filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Buffalo that accused Mr. Callaghan of abuse and accused U.S. Figure Skating of not doing enough to stop it. Mr. Maurizi’s lawsuit is pending, according to his lawyer, Ilene Jaroslaw.

Ms. Jaroslaw said that while the settlement with Mr. Schmidt did not directly affect Mr. Maurizi’s case, “it reflects that U.S. Figure Skating understands that they abdicated their responsibility to protect young skaters.”

Jeré Longman contributed reporting.

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