Figure Skating

Disgraced former French skating chief refuses to quit Olympic post

AFP-Jiji

Didier Gailhaguet, forced to resign from the French Ice Sports Federation (FFSG) in February because of a sexual assault scandal, is refusing to leave the French Olympic Committee, he said on in an email obtained by AFP on Thursday.

"I have decided not to resign and to those who would call for my resignation, I simply ask for a little decency," Gailhaguet said at the end of his message, sent on Wednesday evening and addressed to the 40 or so members of the board of directors of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF), including its president Denis Masseglia.

On Thursday morning, the former president of the FFSG also attended a videoconference meeting of the board.

After a long reign at the head of French skating which he had chaired since 1998-2004 and from 2007, Gailhaguet, 66, was forced to resign at the beginning of February under pressure from the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu.

A fortnight earlier, several former skaters, including Sarah Abitbol who published a book titled "Un si long silence," had accused their former skating coaches, including Gilles Beyer, of rape and sexual assault.

Beyer, the manager of the French national figure skating team, was removed following an investigation by the sports ministry in 2000, but was allowed to continue coaching at the club level under Gailhaguet.

Gailhaguet said in his message that he was forced to resign to save French skating by the threat of withdrawal of recognition brandished by Maracineanu, which he described as "an atomic weapon."

"No, I obviously don't intend to let myself be accused without having the opportunity to defend myself. No, of course I don't intend to be the atoning victim of the administration's obvious malfunctions," he said.

The CNOSF's ethics committee said in a memo on April 14 that the Olympic Committee "cannot unilaterally put an end" to Gailhaguet's term as a director, which is due to end on June 29, 2021, with the election of a new president and a new board of directors.

The committee nevertheless noted that his continued membership "is likely to harm, on the one hand, the cohesion and image of the sports movement and, on the other hand, relations between the new leaders of the French Ice Sports Federation and the CNOSF."

In his email, Gailhaguet said Masseglia "recently asked me to consider resigning from" a post "to which I was democratically elected with you."

Contacted by AFP, Masseglia did not wish to comment, saying that "in the current crisis, it is a secondary problem" and that French sport has "greater challenges."

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