More Speed Skaters Come Forward with Sexual Abuse Allegations

Gabriela Walters, Jan. 10, 2019, 9:25 a.m.

Olympic short track speed skating champion Shim Suk-hee's allegation that her former coach had sexually assaulted her since she was 17 have opened the floodgates of similar charges from other skaters.

A group of Olympic skaters and skating coaches issued a statement on Wednesday saying, "We have learned through an internal probe that other athletes have been victims of sexual abuse and assault" by their coaches.

One female skater said, "We undergo tough training by a coach from childhood, and there are many cases where athletes can't put up resistance and remain silent for fear of ending their sports careers."

One short track speed skater told the Chosun Ilbo, "For every 10 cases of sexual abuse that sports authorities uncover, there are probably 200 more cases that remain hidden."

There is a rape hotline for athletes, but the problem is that coaches do not face serious consequences. Some are simply transferred to instruct other athletes or go overseas for a coaching job if they are found guilty. And it is not easy for athletes who blow the whistle to prove their case in court or overcome their fear of being blackballed. 

Meanwhile, Shin's former coach Cho Jae-beom (38) categorically denied the allegations. "I met him in prison and he is extremely surprised by her allegations and insists he did not do that," Cho's lawyer told the Chosun Ilbo.

Cho, who was sentenced to 10 months behind bars for violently assaulting Shim, has appealed the ruling and reached an out-of-court settlement with three other victims.

But two of them told the court they wish to renege on the settlement after Shim's fresh allegations.

Cho has sent 22 handwritten letters to the judge apologizing for the assaults. One legal expert said, "Cho is technically a first-time offender and settled with other athletes who accused him, so there's still a chance that he may walk free on a suspended sentence. This is probably what drove Shim to make further allegations."

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