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Governing body ‘knows the truth’ behind alleged sexual abuse

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Attorney John Manly, who represents more than 200 victims in the Larry Nassar gymnastics sexual abuse case, told USA TODAY Sports Friday afternoon that he also represents three women who were minors when the late figure skater John Coughlin allegedly sexually abused them.

“My clients and I want to make this clear: John Coughlin used his position of trust and power and prominence in figure skating to sexually abuse multiple minors, three of whom I represent,” Manly said in a telephone interview one day after a USA TODAY Sports story reported that Coughlin’s family told a medical investigator that he committed suicide after he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct by someone they said he was competing with for a TV commentating job.

“His family can create any narrative they want to create,” Manly said, “but U.S. Figure Skating knows the truth, and for them to allow a story to circulate that a false accusation led to Mr. Coughlin’s decision to take his own life is despicable. It’s a mixture of denial, ignorance and in some instances, malice.”

Both USFS spokeswoman Barbara Reichert and Tara Modlin, Coughlin’s agent, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. 

INVESTIGATION: U.S. Figure Skating requests that SafeSport complete John Coughlin sexual misconduct probe

COUGHLIN DEATH: Former U.S. figure skating champion dies by suicide after being suspended from sport

Coughlin, 33, a two-time U.S. pairs champion, hanged himself in his father’s Kansas City home Jan. 18, one day after he received an interim suspension from the U.S. Center for SafeSport. USA TODAY Sports has reported that there were three reports of sexual misconduct against Coughlin, two of them involving minors, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to talk publicly about the matter. 

Coughlin’s death effectively ended the investigation into those reports, SafeSport announced in February.

Asked if he was planning legal action on behalf of his clients, whom he did not name, Manly said, “My clients are going to pursue justice so this never happens to another little girl again.”

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In a Jan. 7 email to USA TODAY, Coughlin called the allegations against him “unfounded.”

“While I wish I could speak freely about the unfounded allegations levied against me, the SafeSport rules prevent me from doing so since the case remains pending,” he wrote. “I note only that the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation in no way constitutes a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to the allegation.”

Coughlin’s assertion that he was being prevented from speaking freely about the allegations against him by SafeSport “is not true,” SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said earlier this month.

“The SafeSport Code and the interim measure process that was communicated to him directly, and which is on our website, makes it clear that he could provide information, evidence, speak for himself and even ask for a hearing that would have been accommodated in 72 hours by rule,” he said. “That hearing would have been in front of an independent arbitrator. That’s such a critical part of all of this.”

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