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More accusations of sexual abuse in U.S. speedskating

March 08, 2013|By David Wharton
  • Nikki Meyer, left, formerly known as Nikki Ziegelmeyer, skated short track for the U.S. in the 1992 and `94 Olympics.
Nikki Meyer, left, formerly known as Nikki Ziegelmeyer, skated short track… (Doug Mills / Associated…)

Hours after U.S. Olympic Committee officials expressed their concern over the state of American speedskating, another former racer came forward with allegations that Olympic medalist and former skating official Andy Gabel raped her when she was 15 and he was in his mid-20s.

Nikki Meyer, formerly known as Nikki Ziegelmeyer, told the Associated Press that the alleged crime occurred in the summer of 1991, and that Gabel later seduced her into a relationship that lasted nearly three years.

Gabel, the former president of U.S. Speedskating, issued a statement that read: "I never forced myself on any individual and any allegations of that nature are absolutely false."

An earlier allegation prompted Gabel to acknowledge that he had "displayed poor judgment in a brief and inappropriate relationship with a female teammate" almost 20 years ago. Speedskater Birdie Farrell has said that she had a relationship with Gabel when she was 15 and he was 33.

On Friday afternoon, top USOC officials Larry Probst and Scott Blackmun spoke with reporters about a number of issues, saying they had been in discussions with U.S. Speedskating over charting that organization's future.

"On the sexual abuse thing, that's an issue not just in speedskating but in sport, and not just in sport but in society in general," said Blackmun, the committee's chief executive. "It's something that we as adults all need to focus on."

The sport has also been struggling with accusations that short-track Coach Jae Su Chun physically and verbally abused team members and that he ordered skater Simon Cho to sabotage the skates of a Canadian racer.

Chun and his assistant resigned, creating upheaval in the program with the Sochi Winter Games fast approaching.

Blackmun noted that American skaters have faltered of late, saying: "Candidly, their performance this winter on the short-track side has not been as good as it has been in recent years. I think we're seeing some of the effects of the challenges they are facing."

Probst declined to give any specifics about the talks with speedskating officials other than to say they have been "constructive."

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