Snowboarders sue ex-coach, federation, USOPC for sex trafficking

An Olympic bronze medalist and other former U.S. Ski & Snowboard team members sued their former coach, Peter Foley, along with the national federation, its former CEO and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee on Thursday for sex trafficking, harassment, and enabling and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct.

Three-time Olympian Rosey Fletcher, 2010 Olympian Callan Chythlook-Sifsof and former national team member Erin O'Malley alleged in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that Foley, the national federation, its longtime CEO Gale "Tiger" Shaw and the USOPC "conspired and acted in concert with one another to commit unlawful acts."

Their lawsuit alleged that Foley exploited his position of trust to "coerce sexual acts through force, manipulation, emotional abuse, intimidation, and retaliation."

"We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed," a USSS spokesperson said. "U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it."

A USOPC spokesperson said while the committee had not received the complaint and could not comment "on any specific details at this time, we take every allegation of abuse very seriously."

Shaw did not immediately respond to ESPN's request for comment. Nor did Foley's attorney, Howard Jacobs, who previously told ESPN in March 2022, "Any allegations of sexual misconduct being made against him are false. Mr. Foley has not engaged in any conduct that violates the SafeSport Code."

By filing the lawsuit, Fletcher, a 2006 Olympic bronze medalist in parallel giant slalom, revealed her identity as the Olympic medalist first described by ESPN in its March 2022 investigation of Foley and USSS. She said in the lawsuit that Foley sexually assaulted her at a U.S. team camp when she was 19 and again at a postrace event at the Olympics, allegations she initially reported to ESPN under the condition of anonymity.

O'Malley alleged she was "sexually assaulted and harassed at USSS- and USOPC-sponsored competitions by Foley, who exploited their unequal power dynamic." O'Malley said in the lawsuit that Foley began mentally and verbally abusing her when she was 15 and sexually assaulted her in an elevator, in Fletcher's presence, after a competition.

"Foley began groping Erin and forcibly trying to kiss her -- all without her consent," the lawsuit said, adding, "For nearly twenty years, coaches and executives at both organizations enabled Foley's behavior, refused to act, and helped cover up Foley's behavior, allowing him to continue his pattern of abuse."

The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

In the lawsuit, Chythlook-Sifsof revealed for the first time that she was "sexually assaulted and raped by a male coach nearly three times her age from an opposing team" when she was 16 during her first junior world championship event in Zermatt, Switzerland, in 2005.

"Although it was not a USSS coach that sexually assaulted Callan, USSS set the stage for the assault to occur and failed to change the toxic environment," the lawsuit said.

Chythlook-Sifsof first raised allegations of sexual impropriety against Foley in February 2022 in a series of Instagram posts.

USSS CEO Sophie Goldschmidt previously told ESPN that the federation had immediately implemented an "athlete safety plan" that prohibited Foley from having "one-on-one interaction with female athletes" and from going into the athlete village after Chythlook-Sifsof made her social media posts. USSS placed Foley on a leave of absence in February 2022 before firing him a month later.

The new lawsuits, however, allege that "despite the suspension, video footage showed Foley in a restricted area at the finish line of the Women's Snowboard Cross event" at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

ESPN has reviewed a video which shows Foley hugging gold medalist Lindsey Jacobellis just after she crossed the finish line.

A USOPC spokesperson told ESPN that Foley's interactions with female athletes during the Olympics were required to be "observable and interruptible."

USSS said at the time that it had followed protocol and reported the allegations to the USOPC, which had jurisdiction over Foley during the Games, and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which handles reports of sexual abuse within the Olympic movement.

Lindsey Nikola, a former USSS employee, filed a separate lawsuit Thursday against Foley, Shaw and the federation alleging that Foley forced her to take nude photos and sexually assaulted her in hotel rooms at two separate World Cup ski races while she was employed as a member of the USSS communications team.

"At USSS-sponsored competitions, Lindsey was coerced, sexually harassed, and sexually assaulted by Foley, who exploited their unequal power dynamic," the lawsuit said.

Nikola's allegations were first reported by ESPN in March 2022.

ESPN also reported at the time how Fletcher and O'Malley alleged USSS employees and a former board member interfered in SafeSport's investigation of their allegations against Foley, prompting a second SafeSport investigation focused on the federation's alleged interference. Both investigations are ongoing, with Foley temporarily suspended from participating in any event, activity or competition authorized or organized by the USOPC and USSS. It also prevents him from using facilities under their jurisdiction.

"Had the USSS taken the safety of their young athletes and employees seriously, Foley's behavior could have been prevented," the new lawsuits stated. "Instead, for nearly twenty years, coaches and executives at USSS enabled Foley's behavior, refused to act, and helped cover up Foley's behavior, allowing him to continue his pattern of abuse."

Others named in the lawsuit include Goldschmidt, former USOPC chief of sports performance Alan Ashley, former Olympic snowboarder and USSS board member Lisa Kosglow, current USSS general counsel Alison Pitt and former USSS employees Abbi Nyberg and Jeffrey Archibald.