Former world bronze medal winning skater Sarah Abitbol has broken years of self-imposed silence with allegations that she was repeatedly raped between the ages of 15 and 17 by her coach, amid a series of new revelations about sexual abuse in French sport, reports FRANCE 24.
In a new book published on Wednesday and in an interview with weekly magazine L’Obs, skater Sarah Abitbol, a ten-time French champion and bronze medal winner in the pairs at the 2000 world championships, accused her ex-coach Gilles Beyer of raping her between 1990 and 1992 when she was between the ages of 15 and 17.
Abitbol’s accusations came on the day that sports daily L’Equipe ran a lengthy report into sexual abuse in skating, swimming and tennis in France.
Under the headline 'The End of Omerta', L’Equipe leans on the stories of three other skaters who accuse Beyer and two other coaches, Jean-Roland Racle and Michel Lotz, of abuse and rape when they were minors.
The coaches have either denied the allegations or declined to comment.
The report comes a week after French tennis coach Andrew Geddes was jailed for 18 years for raping four underage players.
“He [Beyer] started to do horrible things leading to sexual abuse and I was raped at 15,” said Abitbol, now 44, in a video interview with L’Obs.
“It was the first time a man touched me.”
Another skater Helene Godard accused Beyer, who was French national champion in 1978, and Racle of sexual abuse when she was a minor.
According to L’Equipe, Beyer, who continued his career as director of the French teams and national coach, was the subject of two investigations, one by the sports ministry, in the early 2000s.
After the second inquest, the ministry terminated his contract as a technical advisor but he remained close to the skating federation, whose president Didier Gailhaguet declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
Abitbol says that after she retired she mentioned her claims against Beyer to the then Minister of Sport, Jean-Francois Lamour, who allegedly replied: “Yes, we have a file on him, but we’re going to close our eyes.”
The former minister told L’Obs he did not remember this conversation.
“I understood that I was faced with an organised silence,” said Abitbol. “Basically, everyone said to me ‘Take your meds and be quiet!’ I obeyed. I took my meds and I fell silent.”