The long-serving head of France’s skating federation has resigned amid suspicions that he covered up for a coach accused of rape and sexual abuse by former figure skaters.
Didier Gailhaguet denied protecting the coach and says he is not at fault, casting the blame on a former sports minister when he announced his resignation following a special meeting at the French Federation of Ice Sports (FFSG) on Saturday. He said no one at the federation was aware of the alleged wrongdoing.
Speaking after the meeting in Paris, Gailhaguet said: “Out of the need for appeasement I have taken … the wise decision to resign from my position as president of the federation.” It was not immediately known who would replace him as president.
Paris prosecutors this week opened a criminal investigation into accusations from the 10-time French champion, Sarah Abitbol, that she was raped as a teenager by skating coach Gilles Beyer from 1990-92.
Two other former skaters have also accused Beyer, and denounced a lack of support from the federation. The accusations led to calls for Gailhaguet to resign. The most notably of these came from France’s current sports minister, Roxana Mărăcineanu, because Beyer was allowed to continue in roles at the French skating federation until 2018, despite having been let go by the French sports ministry in 2001 following a report highlighting repeated “serious acts” committed against young skaters.
Abitbol accused Beyer in a book published last week and has also spoken about her personal experience on television.
Gailhaguet served a first term as FFSG president from 1998-2004 and started his second stint in 2007. Four members of the FFSG’s executive office, including a treasurer, resigned on Tuesday night.
Mărăcineanu met Gailhaguet on Monday and asked him to resign, saying he “cannot absolve himself of his moral and personal responsibility”. He defiantly said he would not, and then hit back at Mărăcineanu during a news conference on Wednesday, during which he again said he would not immediately resign.
After finally stepping aside on Saturday, he took another swipe at the sports minister, maintaining his view that she was making him “a sacrificial victim“ for the wrongdoing of others.
Gailhaguet blamed the former sports minister, Marie-George Buffet, who was in position in 2001, saying she allowed Beyer to continue working despite evidence against him. He was in charge of the skating federation when Beyer was named France’s team leader during the 2011 Junior World Championships held in Gangneung, South Korea. Gailhaguet said it was “probably through naivety or trust” that he allowed Beyer to be given that role, considering the previous serious allegations against him.
Gailhaguet was pressed on Wednesday as to whether he spoke to parents of the junior skaters involved in the 2011 Worlds out of a responsibility to warn them about Beyer, but said he did not.