The California State Supreme Court will hear an appeal in a Taekwondo-related case centered on whether the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has a legal duty to protect athletes from sexual abuse.
In October of 2019, the 2nd District Court ruled that the USOPC did not have a legal duty to protect its athletes. However, that court did rule that USA Taekwondo could be held liable for a coach who allegedly sexually abused athletes over a seven-year period. The former athletes appealed the decision regarding the USOPC, and their appeal was granted on January 2, 2020.
The case specifically revolves around Taekwondo, where three former Olympic hopefuls claim coach Marc Gitelman sexually abused them. The three claim USA Taekwondo and the USOPC enabled that abuse. The appeal could have implications for the sport of swimming, which is facing many similar issues. A ruling establishing a legal duty by the USOPC to protect its athletes from sexual abuse could open up the USOPC to more lawsuits from alleged abuse victims in sports like swimming, especially with a new California law taking effect January 1 that extends the period in which legal claims can be filed in cases of child sexual abuse. Per The OC Register, that law creates a three-year window to file charges that would have otherwise expired under the statute of limitations.
The California court website describes the center of the case this way: “What is the appropriate test that minor plaintiffs must satisfy to establish a duty by defendants to protect them from sexual abuse by third parties?”