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Home Olympic Former figure skater’s family blamed suicide on false accusation

Former figure skater’s family blamed suicide on false accusation

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The family of two-time national pairs figure skating champion John Coughlin told a medical investigator in Kansas City that Coughlin committed suicide after being falsely accused of sexual misconduct by someone he was competing with for a TV commentating job.

Coughlin, 33, 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.

In the Jackson County (Mo.) medical examiner investigative report, medical investigator Christina Hawkins wrote that Coughlin’s family told her Coughlin “had been depressed because of false allegations.”

“The subject is an Olympic figure skater who was currently trying to get a commentator position with the U.S. Olympic Committee,” Hawkins wrote. “He was competing for the position with another person. This person made false allegations, which resulted in the subject getting suspended from all correspondence and activities.”

SAFESPORT INVESTIGATION: U.S. Figure Skating requests group complete John Coughlin sexual misconduct probe

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

The report does not name the other person.

Coughlin had been a commentator for the now-defunct Ice Network, but that role ended well before his suspension due to potential conflict of interest concerns when he became chair of the International Skating Union’s Athletes Commission and a member of the ISU Single and Pair Skating Technical Committee.

It’s not clear what new television job he might have been seeking, or with whom he might have been competing. There are no figure skating commentating jobs within the USOC itself. 

Coughlin’s agent, Tara Modlin, did not reply Thursday afternoon to calls and text messages seeking comment about the Coughlin family’s accusations.

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Reached on the phone, Coughlin’s father, Michael Coughlin, said, “I haven’t got much to say to you,” and hung up.

In a Jan. 7 email to USA TODAY Sports, 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,” Hill 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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