Top coach’s lifetime ban after sexual misconduct claims upheld

  • US equestrian coach George H Morris’ appeal against a lifetime ban from equestrian sport has been unsuccessful.

    The ban was handed down by US Center for SafeSport on 5 August following the investigation of claims of sexual misconduct involving a minor. At the time Mr Morris issued a statement stating he contested the findings “wholeheartedly” and was in the “process of disputing” them.

    An independent arbitration took place on 7 and 8 November in New York, and Mr Morris’ status on the SafeSport’s website has since been amended from “pending appeal” to “permanently ineligible”.

    The US Center for SafeSport told H&H while it would not be commenting on the matter itself, chief executive officer Ju’Riese Colón, made the following statement:

    “No matter how big a figure is in their sport, or how old the allegations, nobody is above accountability. Athletes and other sport participants must be empowered to stand up for what’s right and speak out against what they know to be wrong.

    “The center’s fair process is a critical part of making that a reality because it gives participants confidence they will be heard, which is essential to making wellbeing the centerpiece of sport culture.

    Ms Colón said the center conducts “thorough“ investigations before rendering a sanction such as a lifetime suspension.

    “The victims in these matters not only suffered the abuse they first report, they often bravely survive countless attacks, even in their sport, for having the courage to speak up,” she said. “Such a response is wrong on many levels, including the fact that it re-victimises those who already suffered more than anyone should. We cannot allow this behaviour to continue as it undermines all that’s great about sport participation.

    “While the center does not comment on specific matters, it wants all survivors, including those who came forward in this instance, to know that the SafeSport code is in place to prevent abuse, provide a voice for those who need one, and hold abusers accountable. The decision to restrict an individual’s ability to participate in sport is not taken lightly, which is why the process is exhaustive and includes many provisions to ensure fairness so both claimants and responding parties are given amble opportunity to speak for themselves, provide evidence, seek counsel and be heard in front of another independent body.”

    During his competitive career Mr Morris won a silver medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He became the US Olympic showjumping chef d’equipe in 2005 and led the team to triumph in the 2005 Samsung Super League series. The team also won silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games, gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and team gold, individual gold and silver medals at the 2011 Pan Am Games. He moved from the US team after the London 2012 Games to lead Brazil’s efforts for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

    Mr Morris did not respond to H&H’s request for comment.

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