The ongoing flood of sexual abuse allegations continues to hit organized sports hard, with a new lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) ignored reports of sexual abuse against two taekwondo legends. The suit says the USOC’s and USA Taekwondo’s lack of response is tantamount to knowingly participating in sex trafficking, according to a CNN report.
Multiple women brought the lawsuit against brothers Jean Lopez (a now-banned coach who was part of Team USA at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics) and Steven Lopez (a three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medalist). The alleged victims trained with the Lopez brothers and accused the two of assault, rape and “other misconduct,” per the CNN piece.
“Much like a pimp who traffics women for money, the USOC was trafficking its athletes to known sexual abusers for money and medals,” an attorney for the alleged victims says in the CNN story. The suit names four women who trained with the Lopez brothers, and also includes “44 similarly situated Jane Does who have yet to be identified.” The suit claims the USOC and the national taekwondo federation protected the Lopez’s and attacked those who accused them of wrongdoing.
Various victims accuse the Lopez brothers of drugging and assaulting women, physical abusing victims, grooming young athletes and using their positions as authorities in the sport to victimize athletes who felt they couldn’t say no to them.
The lawsuit says that the USOC and USA Taekwondo benefited financially from forcing athletes to travel with predatory coaches, drawing a parallel to those who benefit financially from trafficking young women into sex work.
Jean Lopez was banned as of April 3, 2018, part of a new wave of alleged abusers banned by the newly-formed U.S. Center for SafeSport that now has exclusive authority to investigate sexual abuse allegations in U.S. Olympic sports. Steven Lopez is now “temporarily” suspended as the case moves forward, per USA Taekwondo’s banned list.
You can read more about the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s authority and process here.