Longtime US figure skating star Ashley Wagner said she was sexually assaulted by John Coughlin in a first-person essay published in USA Today on Thursday.
The three-time US champion and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist wrote that former American skater John Coughlin climbed into bed with her when she was 17 and he was 22, then kissed and groped her without her permission. The incident took place after a house party during the US team’s training camp in Colorado Springs in June 2008.
Wagner, 28, is the latest figure skater to make an accusation against Coughlin, the two-time US pairs champion who killed himself in January, a day after he received an interim coaching suspension from the US Center for SafeSport and US Figure Skating for unspecified conduct. He was 33.
“I now know that regardless of the events of that night, I got into that bed thinking I was safe to just fall asleep,” Wagner wrote. “He was the one who took away that safety. I went into that house just wanting to have fun with my friends. He was the one who shattered all of that. Going to the party in no way, shape or form gave that man permission to touch me. I never once said anything that made him think that it was okay to take control of my body away from me.
“My presence at a party did not imply my consent. I wish I could have learned that sooner. The years of guilt I have felt should not have rested on me, but on him.”
In March, one of Coughlin’s former skating partners accused him in a series of Facebook posts of sexually assaulting her over a two-year period.
Coughlin “hurt at least 10 people including me. He sexually abused me for 2 years,” wrote Bridget Namiotka, who skated with Coughlin from 2004, when she was 14, until the 2007 season.
Wagner detailed her accusation to US Figure Skating in February before going public with Thursday’s essay.
“What happened to Ashley should not happen to anyone, period,” a spokesperson for the national governing body told USA Today in a statement. “Ashley is incredibly strong; not just to have the courage to come forward with her story, but to share her experience publicly to help others.”
Wagner won an Olympic team bronze medal in 2014 and is now retired from competitive skating. She says she feared speaking out earlier because she competes in a sport where judges determine success. She told the newspaper two factors helped change her mind: the emergence of the #MeToo movement and Coughlin’s suspension by SafeSport, an organization dedicated to protecting young athletes from abuse.
Coughlin maintained his innocence throughout the investigations. He was found dead on 18 January at his father’s home in Kansas City, Missouri.