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Figure Skater Files Lawsuit Claiming Sexual Abuse by Prominent Coach

Sexual abuse allegations continued to roil figure skating on Friday when a lawsuit was filed against Richard Callaghan, a once prominent coach of Olympians who has faced public accusations of improper conduct that stretch back two decades.

Adam Schmidt, 34, a former skating student of Mr. Callaghan’s, filed a lawsuit in San Diego saying 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 during a period from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.

Also named as defendants were U.S. Figure Skating, the sport’s national governing body, and a skating facility in suburban Detroit where Mr. Callaghan taught Mr. Schmidt.

Dean Groulx, Mr. Callaghan’s lawyer, said that neither he nor his client was aware of any such accusation or lawsuit and therefore could not comment. Mr. Groulx added that Mr. Callaghan “denies that he has engaged in any wrongdoing at any time.”

Mr. Callaghan, 73, is best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and coaching Todd Eldredge to a world championship, six United States titles and three Olympic appearances.

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CreditJamie Squire/Getty Images

He was suspended from involvement in skating last year after a renewed examination of accusations made against him by three former skaters to The New York Times in 1999. The U.S. Center for SafeSport, an independent organization created in 2017 to investigate allegations of abuse, conducted the examination.

Mr. Schmidt’s lawsuit followed recent public accusations made by two female skaters that John Coughlin, a two-time United States pairs champion, had sexually abused them. The accusations were made last week by the Olympian Ashley Wagner and, in May, by Bridget Namiotka, a former skating partner of Mr. Coughlin’s.

Other charges against Mr. Coughlin were made anonymously. He was restricted from the sport in December 2017. He denied charges of sexual abuse to USA Today and killed himself the following January, one day after he was handed a full suspension by U.S. Figure Skating.

Mr. Schmidt would not comment beyond an interview with ABC, according to his lawyer, John Manly.

Mr. Manly also represents about 200 accusers of Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the former American women’s gymnastics team doctor, who is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of serial sex abuse. Mr. Manly said in a statement that Mr. Schmidt’s case was another “sad example of the culture of child abuse that is rampant in our Olympic sports programs.”

U.S. Figure Skating and the rinks where Mr. Callaghan taught “ignored complaints against him for years,” Mr. Manly said in the statement, accusing the defendants of concealing from Mr. Schmidt’s parents and the authorities information that Mr. Callaghan might have abused skaters.

“If they had done their legal duty in 1999 and reported Callaghan to the police, our client and other children could have been protected from this monster,” Mr. Manly said.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it did not comment on pending litigation. But the federation added that it “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.”

In March 2018, Mr. Callaghan was suspended from the sport. He was coaching in Florida at the time and has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The suspension resulted from a complaint made to SafeSport by Craig Maurizi, 56, a prominent coach who was a former student and coaching partner of Mr. Callaghan’s. In 1999, Mr. Maurizi told The Times that Mr. Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with him for a number of years, beginning when he was 15.

The accusations were dismissed at the time by U.S. Figure Skating because they had not been levied within a required 60-day period after the abuse allegedly occurred. Mr. Maurizi’s charges received renewed scrutiny after SafeSport decided to investigate.

Two other former skating students of Mr. Callaghan’s also accused him of improper conduct in The Times article in 1999. Eddy Zeidler said Mr. Callaghan exposed himself to him in a hotel room in 1992. Roman Fraden said that Mr. Callaghan made inappropriate sexual remarks to him in 1994, and Mr. Fraden’s parents said they confronted Mr. Callaghan over the remarks.

Mr. Callaghan resigned from the Detroit Skating Club in 1999 and eventually moved to Florida to continue coaching.

In the 1999 Times article, Mr. Callaghan, in denying the accusations, accused Mr. Maurizi of trying to poach skaters to further his own coaching career. And he expressed suspicion that some of his other former skaters were attempting to blame him for their own unfulfilled careers.

“For whatever reasons I don’t understand, people love me or hate me,” Mr. Callaghan told The Times in 1999. “I have no clue why. In almost 30 years, I’ve taught about 500 kids. I don’t understand this. The allegations are awful. I can’t believe I worked my butt off for kids to be successful in skating to be better people and this stuff happens.”

From 1999 to about 2002, Mr. Schmidt trained at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., with Mr. Callaghan as his coach, according to the lawsuit filed. In October 2001, Mr. Schmidt attended an event in San Diego called the Masters of Figure Skating competition. He was 16 at the time. The lawsuit, and an accompanying news release, said that Mr. Callaghan “secluded” Mr. Schmidt and sexually abused him at the arena where the competition occurred.

The lawsuit also accused U.S. Figure Skating of having received information that Mr. Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate behavior with other minors but did not report him to the authorities, as required by law.

In the wake of Mr. Maurizi’s accusations in the late 1990s, the skating federation has taken a number of steps to strengthen its protection of young athletes. For instance, coaches are forbidden from being alone with skaters under 18. And it is mandatory for everyone in skating to report all witnessed or suspected abuse.

Mr. Schmidt told ABC News that Mr. Callaghan began abusing him at the Detroit Skating Club and that the assaults escalated at the Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester, Mich., which was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Tom Anastos, the owner of the rink, told ABC he was unaware of those allegations and that if any complaint had been received at the rink “we would have acted on it.”

Mr. Schmidt told ABC that, following practices on the ice, he would go to his coach’s office, where Mr. Callaghan touched him inappropriately while the coach was nude from the waist down.

“I didn’t understand it at the time, because I was just so obsessed with my career and wanting to please him,” Mr. Schmidt told ABC.

He said he was hospitalized with psychological trauma in January 2017 and disclosed the alleged sexual abuse to a therapist, who confirmed Mr. Schmidt’s account to ABC.

“How did this happen?” Mr. Schmidt told the network. Referring to the allegations Mr. Maurizi made against Mr. Callaghan in 1999, Mr. Schmidt added, “Why 20 years ago did everyone know and do nothing?

“Because if they had done something then,” Mr. Schmidt continued, “I never would have been abused.”

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