Sports

Multiple women accuse ex-U.S. Snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexual misconduct

PARK CITY, Utah — Three former athletes and one former U.S. Ski & Snowboard employee are accusing veteran snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexual misconduct, including instances of sexual assault, unwanted touching and kissing, and using his Olympic team selection power to coerce women into taking nude photos, according to ESPN reporting.

The complaints were officially filed this month with the U.S. Center for Safesport, a watchdog organization that polices sexual abuse issues in U.S. amateur sports. In the days after, U.S. Ski & Snowboard announced that Foley was no longer employed by the organization.

Foley was the head coach of the U.S. snowboard team when it began in 1994. He’s led the squad to seven Olympics, and his athletes have won a combined 35 Olympic medals.

Allegations against Foley first became public during the Beijing Games in February, when former snowboardcross athlete and 2010 Olympic Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, highlighted Foley’s misconduct on Instagram.

Following Chythlook-Sifsof’s posts, others began to speak out.

One Olympic medalist spoke of a night at an airport hotel, where athletes were sleeping three to a bed.

“I was on the edge of the bed and I was asleep and at one point I feel someone sneak in behind me in the bed,” the athlete, who was 19 at the time, said. She said that she realized it was Foley, and that the coach “reached his left arm over my body and put his fingers inside me.”

“I just laid there,” she told ESPN. “I remember just laying there in shock. It happened for a while and it just stopped and he got up and left.”

Prior to Chythlook-Sifsof’s callout, the athlete had only told one relative about the incident.

Erin O’Malley, who was one of the first women to join the American snowboard team in 1995 at age 16, told ESPN the squad “is a good ol’ boys club.”

She said that by the time she made the team, Foley “had established himself as a dirty dog.”

“It was the culture. It was what guys did. We had drunk guys busting into your room, getting in your bed, humping your leg, grabbing bras out of the drawer and running down the hall with them,” the athlete told ESPN.

Foley held significant leverage over the athletes, as he was in charge of seeding and deciding who travels to World Cup competitions, not to mention the Olympic team.

“There is now this power position,” the athlete said. “He can say I can’t start in this World Cup and I can’t be in the Games.”

Years later, after the athlete successfully managed to get Foley to stop kissing her, she was celebrating the Olympic medal she had just one with her teammates when Foley approached her and whispered in her ear: “I still remember how you were breathing.”

“I knew. I knew exactly what the fuck he was talking about,” the athlete told ESPN. “It gave me chills. It brought me back to being 19… What compels someone to think or say that?”

In a separate event, a member of U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s communications team from 2006 to 2010 recalled Foley sexually assaulting her at a 2008 World Cup ski race in Beaver Creek.

Lindsey Sine Nikola, a University of Utah grad, said she made a deal with Foley — in return for getting to stay at a team house for a separate race in Aspen, Foley would get to bunk with her at the Beaver Creek race. At the time, Nikola told ESPN she thought the request was “normal.”

“But he should never have asked to stay in a room alone with me based on his position,” Nikola told ESPN. “I didn’t have the experience to deal with that because I thought it was a normal thing to do based on how the team traveled together. I didn’t know the position I was putting myself in.”

During one night at the event, Foley coerced her to strip so he could take pictures of her. Chythlook Sifsof’s posts in February said he has been taking “naked photos of female athletes for over a decade.”

On a separate night at the same event, Nikola went back to her room early because she was tired. Foley later came in, hopped on the bed, and asked if she could rub his back. She obliged.

“At some point, he says that he wants to do something physical with me,” she recalled to ESPN.

She began to move away, and Foley then started asking intimate questions, including whether she wanted them to touch themselves in front of each other.

“I said no. Then he started to touch me physically. I was stunned because I said no and there he is with his hands on me, touching me under my clothes and I’m frozen.” — Lindsey Sine Nikola

He went on to touch her breasts and genitals without consent, and later undressed, rolled her onto her stomach, and ejaculated onto her back before going over to his cot and falling asleep. She left her role at U.S. Ski & Snowboard a year later.

“When someone has that level of control, there has to be very clear boundaries because it puts women in a vulnerable position and it raises the question of whether or not consent can actually be given,” Nikola told ESPN.

The four women that have made allegations have all agreed to cooperate with SafeSport’s investigatory process.

“Any allegations of sexual misconduct being made against him are false,” Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, told ESPN. “Mr. Foley has not engaged in any conduct that violates the SafeSport Code, and he will cooperate with the U.S. Center for SafeSport when and if they contact him.”

In a message to athletes and other members of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard community on March 24, CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said the following in a statement:

“I am fully committed to creating a culture of transparency and accountability at U.S. Ski & Snowboard and creating the best environment for our athletes, staff and members. I encourage anyone who is aware of any issues of harassment or abuse at our organization to come forward. We are working to put additional channels and resource opportunities in place so that athletes, staff and all members of our organization have options to communicate concerns regarding this situation and others that may arise. This is in addition to mental health resources that we have available for all athletes and staff.”

Read the full ESPN report

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