Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

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Elizabeth
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Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Elizabeth » Mon Feb 03, 2020 1:28 pm

Recent revelations about the long-time inappropriate (sexual) behaviour of several French coaches with skaters (especially of minor age), triggered by information published in a book by Sarah Abitbol, former pairs skater, has led to serious attention being paid to Didier Gailhuguet, the president of the Fédération française des sports de glace (FFSG). His long and close association with the alleged perpetrators and his knowledge of the situations with lack of/inappropriate action have been openly discussed in the press and many skaters and officials are speaking up. Among them, Gwendal Peizerat, former ice dancer, who tried unsuccessfully to be elected FFSG President and was quite vocal about problems at that time. Also speaking up on Twitter, Guillaume Cizeron who said: "I want to express support and admiration for @Abitbol_sarah 's courage. Gabriella and I believe the values of this sport that we represent are pure ones. As skaters, coaches, parents, fans we all want this beautiful sport to remain a safe one."

Today Gailhuguet was ordered to participate in a meeting with the Sports Minister, Roxana Maracineanu (former swimmer, world medalist and olympic silver medalist). He was apparently asked to resign and given 2 weeks to do so. https://apnews.com/8ddd551c610f501d16dcee8f7980779f

Appearing on TV the Minister said:
the number of events, and the span of time over which they occurred, point to general dysfunction inside the federation [...] Didier Gailhaguet cannot abdicate his moral and personal responsibility; I have therefore asked him to resign
There has also been an on-line petition in circulation for several days asking for the same thing - it has received thousands of signatures including former skaters and officials, as well as fans.

Long-time fans remember his involvement in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics "situation" and the limited punishment/retribution he subsequently received.

The situation in France is very complicated with respect to the federation and the direct authority of the Sports Minister. If Gailhuguet does not resign, it has been said that it may require the "nuclear option" to take away his authority.

As I understand it:
  • The federation is a private, independant entity. The government doesn't have the power to remove him if he does not resign.
  • Only the Conseil Fédéral of the FFSG was the power to remove him, if he does not resign, but only by a 2/3 majority of votes from the 31 members. Because of the membership of the council, as he has set it up, this might be complicated/difficult. If they were to remove him there would have to be a new general assembly with the election of a new president.
  • The government has a massively convincing tool in the form of the "agrément ministériel" or "delégation" ("certification"/"approval"). Having this "agrément" allows the federation to actually use the name "french federation of ...", use the names "french championships", "french champion", "team France", "regional championships", "national championships", "international championships" and to hold competitions with those names. Plus it gives the federation a mission of public interest to develop the sport toward high level and mass sport. This comes with subsidies.
  • The Sports Ministry gives this "agrément" to one federation per sport / group of sports. It may also take it away.
  • Taking away the "agrément" from the FFSG would be considered launching the "nuclear option"
  • If Gailhuguet doesn't resign and isn't removed by the Conseil and the "agrément" or "delégation" is removed, the Sports Ministry could ask the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) to organize figure skating national and international competitions, fund and select the athletes for a (short) period of time, waiting for the problem to be resolved.
According to news reports, the Sports Minister has not only given him 2 weeks to resign. She has also started the process of removing the "agrément" or "delégation", essentially putting pressure on the Conseil Fédéral to censure/remove him. She has also launched "administrative enquiries".

A very complicated, serious, and unfortunate situation but many are grateful that these issues and the individuals involved are now being put under the bright investigative light of the government and the media after many years of nothing happening.

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Elizabeth
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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Elizabeth » Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:13 pm

After casting blame toward the Sports Minister serving from 1997-2002, Gailhuguet has said that he will think about all of this and will have a press conference on Wednesday to discuss things further.

Here's an article in English from France about this whole situation with respect to skating as well as other sports: https://www.france24.com/en/20200203-sk ... ench-sport

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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by fred » Wed Feb 05, 2020 8:11 am

This is horrible, and it's been going on for so long. Is there some link between cheating judges and paedophilic coaches? A tennis coach recently got 18 years, I think, for something similar. I hope things follow along that way here. There must be zero tolerance, no matter which nation it happens in. I hope victims have the courage to come forward and press charges. It's long overdue.

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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Elizabeth » Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:06 pm

According to today's news reports:
  • Four members of the French skating federation's 16-member Executive Office tendered their resignation last night, during a special meeting about the ongoing sexual abuse scandal. They apparently urged the President to do the same. Among them, treasurer Jean-Bernard Hamel and National FS Commission President Alban Préaubert, both of whom are key figures within the federation. The third is Christophe Lambert, ex-president of the Bourgogne League of Ice Sports. The name of the fourth member is not yet known.
  • Despite the Sports Minister requesting his resignation on Monday, FFSG president Didier Gailhaguet has stated he will keep his post until the administrative investigation launched by the minister concludes.
  • the alleged perpetrator named by Sarah Abitbol, and who was said to have been protected by Gailhuguet, has been "officially and definitely excluded from the club Les Français Volants in Paris" at a special meeting of the club's executive last evening.
  • The French government announced they support the resignation request sent to Didier Gailhuguet, stating he has at least a "moral responsibility" in this case.
  • Didier Gailhaguet said in his press conference that the federation was working with an association (@COLOSSEPIEDSDAR) fighting against sexual abuse in sports. its director, a former rugby player, a sexual abuse victim himself, denies any connection between the FFSG and his association.

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kittykins
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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by kittykins » Wed Feb 05, 2020 5:36 pm

This is dreadful. It's good that it finally came out, but so sad that these young women suffered in silence for so long and had to go through what they did. It makes one wonder how many others are out there? :(
The anniversary of my 50 years of watching skating!

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Elizabeth
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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Elizabeth » Wed Feb 05, 2020 6:02 pm

kittykins wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 5:36 pm
This is dreadful. It's good that it finally came out, but so sad that these young women suffered in silence for so long and had to go through what they did. It makes one wonder how many others are out there? :(
I'm sure that there are others, and not just in France, sadly. In fact, news came out today of another instance of "misbehaviour" by the coach named by Sarah Abitbol - in this case he was importuning the mother of a skater over an extended period of time, via e-mail messages, seeking improper relations in return for continuing to coach her daughter (at a club that they couldn't really afford) :x

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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Elizabeth » Sat Feb 08, 2020 9:18 am

A special meeting of the Executive Council of the FFSG was held today and afterward Didier Gailhuguet announced that he was resigning.

Image

I my estimation, a translation of his statement portrays him as a martyr!!
Purely in order to calm tensions, I have--with composure, with dignity, but without bitterness in the face of its injustice--with my head held high--taken the wise decision to resign as Federation president.
I wonder if measures will be taken to ensure that he is gone for good (and that he is not just pulling the strings behind the scenes)?

And will the investigation(s) continue and appropriate measures be taken based on the results?

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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Elizabeth » Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:14 am

I'm encouraged by this translation of the statement by Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu:
I note that the president of FFSG has resigned. This is a first step. The ministry aims to analyze the dysfunction which allowed these serious acts to take place over a long period of time within the federation.

We will follow through. We owe this to the victims. We will do it with an eye to preserving athletes, practitioners and clubs so that the sport as a whole is strengthened as a result.

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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Kevin » Sat Feb 08, 2020 11:52 am

Wow - this is monumental news! I am glad to see him gone, and hope it will be forever!!

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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Elizabeth » Sat Feb 08, 2020 2:18 pm


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Re: Serious issues being addressed in France - change may be afoot

Post by Elizabeth » Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:06 am

It was announced today that there will be a special election on March 14th to elect a new FFSG President. Candidates must be identified by two weeks before the election.

An article in French: https://www.lequipe.fr/Patinage-artisti ... rs/1108599

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