The U.S. Center for SafeSport has lifted a lifetime ban on taekwondo coach Jean Lopez and replaced it with temporary restrictions, reports indicate. A lawyer for women who say Lopez sexually assaulted them indicated that the ban was lifted because the alleged victims wouldn’t testify in person, though SafeSport has denied that claim.
Lopez and his brother, three-time Olympian Steven Lopez, have been at the center of a major taekwondo scandal. Multiple women have claimed that the Lopez brothers drugged and assaulted women, physically abused women, groomed young athletes for sexual abuse and used their positions of authority to victimize athletes who felt they couldn’t say no to them. The brothers were the subject of a lawsuit this spring complaining that the USOC failed to address complaints about the Lopez’s while profiting of of their status, and comparing that situation to knowingly participating in sex trafficking.
Now, USA Today reports that a previous lifetime ban on Jean Lopez has been lifted by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. Attorney Stephen Estey, who represents several alleged victims of Jean Lopez, told USA Today that the Center was requiring those victims to testify in person in order to maintain the ban. The Center says it offered Estey’s clients other options, “including offsite questioning by video or telephone, as well as an opportunity for reporting parties to be questioned only by the arbitrator, without direct cross-examination by the responding party or their lawyer, in accordance with the SafeSport Code,” but Estey says his clients will already have to testify in a civil trial and doesn’t want them to have to testify twice.
Jean Lopez’s ban on the SafeSport website is now listed as an “intermediate measure – restriction,” though it’s not clear what those specific restrictions are. Lopez’s lawyer told Deadspin that Lopez would be allowed to coach again, with the only restriction being that he is disallowed from having contact with his accusers. We’ve reached out to the Center for SafeSport for specific restrictions, but haven’t yet received response.
The story is relevant to all Olympic sports as it’s an early wrinkle in the Center for SafeSport system, which now oversees investigations and bans on allegations of coaching abuse in Olympic sports, rather than the individual sporting federations themselves.