French Minister of Sport to Host Convention on Prevention of Sexual Violence

French Minister of Sport and former elite swimmer Roxana Maracineanu will host a national convention on the prevention of sexual violence in sport, she announced Wednesday on Twitter. The event will take place Feb. 20.

Her announcement comes as French paper L’Equipe published bombshell claims of sexual assault in ice skating, and resurfaced allegations made by Olympic-hopeful French swimmers in the early 1990s. The paper released a series on sexual assault in French sport titled “The end of the omerta on sexual violence.” In sports, “omerta” refers to a code silence among athletes — the term is often used in reference to professional cyclists’ prevalent use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The swimmers’ allegations were against coach Christophe Millet‘s regarding his repeated sexual abuse at an elite training center in the 1980s, according to a report from France’s L’Equipe newspaper.

Élisabeth Douet, Frédérique Weber and Isabelle Chaussalet are among the female swimmers who say Millet abused them at the elite altitude training center in Font-Romeu in the 1980s. According to the swimmers, who were then between 13 and 15 years old, Millet would call them after dinner and ask them to return to the sauna under the pretext he would give them a massage to help them recover for the next day.

“We arrived in the sauna,” one swimmer explained. “He was removing the towel. He was erect. ‘Have you ever seen a naked man?’ he asked.”

“We then lay on our stomachs, surrounds us with his legs then begins to massage our legs, then the adductors, then the sex,” another swimmer added.

Three-time Olympian Franck Schott, who also trained under Millet, said he would notice the women coming back from the sauna crying, but assumed it was “because they had been yelled at.”

Millet began coaching at Font-Romeu in 1980, and in 1988, one of the women told her father what had been going on, and they reported it to the police. Millet was taken into police custody.

His trial was set for December 1992, but meanwhile, Millet began working in a management role at the Canet 66 Club. Millet denied the accusations against him, but was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for indecent exposure, according to L’Equipe. But after an appeal, the sentence was reduced to six months, and Millet did not obtain a criminal record.

Schott, who married one of the victims, says he told the then-president of the French federation “it is him or me.” In March 2008, Millet introduced himself as responsible for recruiting at Canet 66. Éric Rebourg — another French coach — says he saw Millet coaching in 2011. Anne-Marie Agel, who was also a coach at Font-Romeu in the ’80s and coached at Canet, said she was surprised to see Millet coaching again.

“I am surprised to see him at the edge of the pool with his students,” Agel told L’Equipe. “But these are old facts and there have obviously been no problems since.”

In response to L’Equipe‘s investigation, French sports minister Maracineanu said that the ministry now was five full-time staff members dedicated to hearing and investigating cases.

“Almost every day we have a call from people, volunteers, parents, leaders, to report cases. It really freed up speech,” Maracineanu told Le’Equipe.
“At the beginning of each week, I have a report on the progress of the investigations in progress, the number of which is increasing. Particularly because people say they have an interest in speaking now.”

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About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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