LOS ANGELES, CA – October 29, 2015 – Three sexually abused athletes with shattered Olympic dreams have sued the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and various athletic organizations. The athletes claim that the molestation they experienced at the hands of their coach would never have occurred had the USOC heeded warning signs and protected them from a known predator. The defendants include USA Taekwondo (USAT), the national governing body (NGB) for the sport of taekwondo in the United States and an umbrella group of the USOC.
The three then-teenage and underage athletes state that their taekwondo coach Marc Gitelman sexually assaulted and molested them while they attended athletic competitions across the country. Gitelman was found guilty of sexually molesting the three young athletes by a jury in Los Angeles County and was sentenced to four years and four months in prison.
According to the complaint, Gitelman’s sexual abuse started in 2007 and did not end until 2013. Even after his arrest in 2014 Gitelman continued to attend and referee athletic competitions in multiple venues, including Los Angeles, California.
One athlete’s lawsuit claims that she submitted her sexual abuse complaint against Gitelman to the USOC in 2013. Yet Gitelman, while suspended, was still allowed to coach other female athletes for more than one year and in some tournaments stand a mere ten feet away from the plaintiff as she competed.
According to the lawsuit, the three sexually abused athletes allege that at least five young underage female athletes have been raped, molested, sexually abused, or harassed by their male coaches at the Olympic Training Centers in California, New York, Michigan, and Colorado and at competitions around the world. As such, the athletes say the USOC and their sanctioned athletic organizations had a duty and obligation to protect them from predatory coaches.
Since the late 1980’s, the lawsuit claims the USOC received numerous complaints of sexual assaults against taekwondo athletes in the dormitories at its training centers in Colorado Springs, Chula Vista, Lake Placid, and Marquette. The USOC went so far as to place a guard outside the girl’s dormitories at its training center in Colorado Springs. That guard, however, was removed sometime between 2007 and 2009, leaving female athletes vulnerable and unprotected.
The lawsuit further alleges that the USAT Code of Ethics prohibiting illegal sexual contact between coaches and athletes is meaningless without enforcement or oversight.
Attorney Robert Allard is representing one of the three athletes.