Four-Time Olympian Suing German Swimming Association for Allegedly Ignoring Abuse

German diver Jan Hempel is suing the German Swimming Association “in the seven-figure range” for ignoring his complaints of sexual abuse for years by former coach Werner Langer.

“The German Swimming Association has completely failed in monitoring and controlling its coaches,” said Hempel’s lawyer, Thomas Summerer. “There was only a cover-up. This organizational culpability means that an association is liable.”

Hempel, now 51 years old, represented Germany at four Olympic Games — Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, 1996 Atlanta, and 2000 Sydney — winning a silver medal on the 10-meter platform in 1996 and a bronze on the platform synchro in 2000. Last August, he accused Langer of abusing him for 14 years starting in 1982, when he was just 11 years old.

“The federation suggested to me that if I spread that around, it would put our sport in danger and then you can’t take part in your sport anymore,” Hempel said last August. “Of course, I was at a level where I had goals in mind and I wanted to reach them.”

The abuse allegedly continued regularly, including at the 1992 Olympics, until Hempel defended himself for the time before the 1996 Olympics. He said he informed German national team coach Ursula Klinger of Langer’s abuse a year later. Langer was suspended at one point, but it was due to an alleged Stasi past rather than sexual abuse. He later worked for the Austrian Swimming Federation before taking his own life in 2001.

The lawsuit claims that Hempel was sexually abused by Langer more than 1,200 times during his career. Summerer described it as “the most blatant case of abuse that German sport has ever experienced.”

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2 months ago

Good for him!
German swimming is a mess and always has been. Even when you put the actual abuse cases in a separate category, I could name countless coach with just-turned-legal-swimmer “romantic” relationships off the top of my head between 1992 and 2012… including several national team coaches. It was all just so unprofessional and nobody ever said anything. I’m no prude and I don’t think that all these relationships were abuse. But I do think that the power dynamic a romantic relationship between a coach and his/her athlete creates requires a certain level of maturity on both sides to be healthy and therefore the federation should not just say “oh great, our hot young star is dating her… Read more »

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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