SafeSport says it won't re-open Coughlin probe

The U.S. Center for SafeSport said Monday it has no plans to continue its investigation of deceased figure skater John Coughlin despite U.S. Figure Skating's renewed calls for answers.

The Center, which is the group in charge of adjudicating claims of abuse in Olympic sports, issued a statement Monday morning saying it has found evidence that figure skating has a culture "that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long" and it "cannot be allowed to continue." In Coughlin's case, however, the Center said it will not look further into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him, because he is no longer alive and thus no longer a threat to athletes or others in the sport's community.

"The Center has made its position regarding the Coughlin matter abundantly clear to USFS and the parties involved," The Center said in its statement. "The Center's actions are consistent with the SafeSport Code and its mission. The Center cannot advance an investigation when the named respondent no longer presents a potential threat."

Coughlin -- a former national champion, coach and television commentator -- died by suicide in January one day after he was suspended amid an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct. Dan Hill, a spokesman for SafeSport, said an interim suspension does not indicate that investigators found any conclusive evidence of wrongdoing. Coughlin told USA Today in early January that the allegations against him were "unfounded."

UFSF president Anne Cammett and several others sent a letter to the Center last week that said the lack of a completed investigation "has allowed for innuendo and continued speculation to dominate" conversation about the uncertain circumstances of Coughlin's actions and his death. The letter said in order for the Center to fulfill its duty to place the well-being of athletes first, it "must finish what it started."

Cammett and others from USFS first asked the Center to continue its investigation in late January. The Center has declined to take the case any further because it says it mission is to remove potential threats from the Olympic community. It also said it would not be fair to reach a conclusion about Coughlin's actions without him being able to respond or defend himself.

The Center opened in March 2017 with the responsibility to investigate and administer punishment for sexual misconduct and other abuse committed by members of any of the national governing bodies that represent individual Olympic sports. The Center has the power to suspend or permanently ban an individual from their sport.

The Center said in its statement Monday that it tries to address the cultural issues of abuse through training, education and on a case-by-case basis when specific complaints are made. The statement encouraged any person with information about abuse to share it with the Center.

"We cannot emphasize enough that the culture of all sports must shift to one that puts athlete well-being first," the statement said, "which will only happen when there is accountability for those who violate the SafeSport Code."