California Supreme Court To Hear Appeal over USOPC’s Duty To Protect Athletes

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?”

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Brian M
1 year ago

For the record, I believe child sexual abuse is one of the highest forms of abuse you can inflict on a person. Unfortunately, I was abused as a child, so I can absolutely relate to victims in this case. With that being said, the lower court got this case right. Many courts (including the US Supreme Court) have ruled that not even government officials to include police officers have the legal duty to protect you. How can we expect an NGB to be held to a higher standard than the government is, especially when the NGB does not have control or custody over the victims and perpetrators? I am not relying on a NGB or government body to protect my… Read more »

Reply to  Brian M
1 year ago

Not being disagreed with you about parent’s responsibility it isn’t that simple as you described. Whenever I was visiting practice sessions I was politely but firmly asked by coach to leave. There is an area where we have no control as parents and we do need help from overlooking organizations. But I agree with you that in many cases they do nothing. Mostly because they are staffed by incompetent indifferent people.

Brian M
Reply to  Yozhik
1 year ago

If a coach asked me to leave, then I would be leaving with my child. Especially in this day and age, no adult will have access to my child like that. At the very least, that coach had terrible judgment. If I am on deck with swimmers, I would want as many parents there as possible in the stands.

Reply to  Brian M
1 year ago

So if I pay someone to watch my kids and they abuse them then I can’t sue them? You clearly have no legal background. So why was Safesport created then? Under your argument it wouldnt be needed. Only someone paid by the USOPC would write this garbage.

Brian M
Reply to  Taa
1 year ago

You obviously didn’t read my post. Nowhere did I mention that you should not be able to sue someone who commits a crime against you. This is about a NGB being found to have legal duty to protect an person, which again even the government is not subject to this. If USA swimming was required to have a legal duty to protect every member in it’s organization, there would be no more USA swimming…they wouldn’t be able to get insurance for one thing. If my legal chops are so bad, then maybe the lower court that ruled already this way are hacks too?

Reply to  Brian M
1 year ago

Maybe not on deck (if you can avoid it), but certainly the opportunity to observe practice unobstructed. Any coach that closes practice, that’s a red flag. If you’re a coach who closes practice, you need to reconsider your priorities and CYA by opening the pool for observation.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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