A sex scandal erupts in French sports. At the end of January, former figure skater, bronze medalist of the 2000 World Cup Sarah Abitbol published her autobiography Such a Long Silence. In the book, she described in detail how she, still a girl, was regularly raped by trainer Gilles Beyer for several years. Her compatriots responded to this news, who also spoke about the harassment by the mentor. The coach continues to work to this day, despite the wave of indignation that swept not only France but also the sports world. The details of this story, which, as it turned out, knew about the leadership of the national federation found out.
French skater Sarah Abitboll accused the former coach of rape The Paris prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the ex-coach of the figure skater Sarah AbitbolSexual violence in figure skating: Minister of Sports Roxana Marasinianu demands the resignation of the president of the federation head of the French Ice Skating Federation Didier Garage, resigned due to the sexual abuse scandalCoach Gilles Beyer recognized as inappropriate an intimate relationship with the skater and apologized French figure skating coach has warned about Beyer violence for 20 years, but nobody listened to him.
And if the first five theses, despite the eerie message, do not cause much surprise (in recent years there have been a dozen of such stories), then the final news is out of the ordinary. Usually, after many years, the victims themselves start talking about this. Here there appeared someone who was not subjected to violence, who knew and was not silent about him but did not pay attention to himself. So what actually happened in this sport in France in the 1990s?
Figure skating in France has always been developed, although the big champions from this country can be counted on the fingers of one hand: Briand Joubert, Surya Bali, and among the current ones – Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron. At the same time, the overall level of French skaters has remained quite high for decades, and many of them have at least once been on the podium of the most prestigious competitions. Among them is Sarah Abitbol – the winner of the bronze medal of the 2000 world championship in pair skating. Her partner was Stefan Bernadi. Together they also won seven European Championship medals (five bronze and two silver).
Abitbol came to this sport from single skating, to which she devoted ten years of her career. All these years she trained with Gilles Beyer – one of the leading specialists of the national team. He was very influential, combining his main job with that of a manager, recruiting and firing other coaches on the team, and headed the large figure skating club Français volants at the Palais de Bercy in Paris.
Parents and athletes trusted him unconditionally, and even the tough methods that Beyer often chose could not spoil his reputation. Ents constantly walked with bruises on the most unobvious places, for example, the neck. When he was dissatisfied with one of the skaters, he pounced on him, grabbed him by the back of his head, lifted him, pressing him to the side, and let him fall on the ice. And he loved classes in the hall even more. Sarah recalls how, during stretching, the coach lay down on the athletes: “He spread our legs with his hands and breathed into our necks.” Abitbol did not show clear results in the competition, but Beyer did not want to give it up until the very end. And only with time, it became clear why. Conquer the vastness o
Why didn’t I scream? Why didn’t you run away? Does it surprise you that I’m sitting on your bed? 15-year-old Sarah woke up with a pungent smell of alcohol and a familiar male voice. It was an ordinary night at the sports school boarding school in La Roche-sur-Yon, where training camps were held. The classes were hard, every evening the athlete literally collapsed from her feet from fatigue and did not even close the door to the room. So Beyer came for the first time. Before, a man had never touched me like that, says Abitbol. He came many more times.
Why didn’t I scream? Why didn’t you run away? How could I tell my parents Dad, mom, you sacrificed everything to become a champion, but my coach, who you like so much, did disgusting things to me? Sarah was silent because she knew that they would hardly believe her, and the coach who repeated This will be our secret was terribly afraid.
But there was still a dream to achieve something in figure skating – if she accused Beyer publicly, the road to big sports would be closed forever. The only thing that the skater did was to start a diary. On the last page, Sarah marked the days when he did it again: the rape continued for two years. When the girl returned from training camps and spent the night at home, Beyer told her parents that she needed to stay in training or came up with other ways to be alone with her. What was happening broke the skater psychologically. She could no longer compete: technique fell, and her head was constantly occupied by something else. The only way out was to change the coach, but it was impossible to leave just like that. Fortunately, at the next training camp, she met Stefan Bernadi, a skater who was looking for a partner. Sarah caught on to this opportunity and switched to pair skating. And at the same time – in the group of Jean-Roland Race.
The working relationship between Abitbol and Bernadi quickly developed into a romantic one. She, by her own admission, finally felt protected, and Beyer did not have the opportunity to meet with her. The nightmares are over: the time has come for victories at the French championships, medals in the European and world championships. Time of cooperation with Stanislav Leonovich and Tatiana Tarasova.
I Was Scared To Leave The House
Health did not allow Abitbol to compete at the 2002 Olympics. This was supposed to be the second Games of her career in 1998, the couple took sixth place. A leg injury – a ruptured heel tendon – forced the skater to retire, and Bernadi retired from the sport with her. The athletes continued to participate in the show, even though their union broke up in life. Abitbol began dating a young man named Olivier. It was then that Sarah’s problems began again – panic attacks, nightmares. Heavy antidepressants saved me.
I felt more and more anxious. I was scared to leave the house. I could no longer fly on an airplane on tour, go into enclosed spaces like parking lots and shopping centers. I faced obstacles that did not exist before, but which have become a huge challenge in my daily life, says Sarah. Olivier, who was always there, could not help but notice. And one day she told him everything. He recalls We were in bed. I said to Sarah, I think you had a problem as a child, you need to talk about it. There was a silence, then she shrank. She ran to the toilet and I heard that she was vomiting. The next day, Abitbol shared everything with her parents. They were shocked by what they heard and began to persuade their daughter to sue. Sara refused.
I didn’t believe in success. He was very influential. I was just devastated. It was 2004, and I Too was still a long way off, she explains. Instead, it was decided to meet with the former coach and then get him fired. He apologized but refused to stop work. Abitbol turned to the then Minister of Sports, Jean-François Lamour. He replied that nothing can be done without a police report, and advised to leave everything as it is. He also admitted that there was a dossier on Beyer. “I realized that I was dealing with organized silence. Everyone said, “Take your medicine and be quiet!” I did just that. I took medicine and was silent. ” And she also decided to write a book, which she once promised herself to publish and in which it was much easier to admit everything.
Other victims of Beyer were figure skaters, Leticia Hubert and Helene Godard. And these are only those who reacted to the release of Abitbol’s autobiography. According to unconfirmed reports, at least four more women remain silent. As for the “dossier” that the Minister of Sports Lamour spoke about, long before Sarah’s appeal, in 1998, the police did indeed begin an investigation into Beyer. Then Hubert applied. This has borne fruit, although publicity has been avoided.
In 2000, the new Minister of Youth Affairs Marie-Georges Buffet demanded that the coach’s actions be recognized as incompatible with working with minors. His surname disappeared from the lists of the Ministry of Sports, but he continued to be a member of the federation and did not change his lifestyle. Until 2018, Beyer was a member of the executive committee of the French Ice Sports Federation. At the beginning of 2020, he remained the general manager of the Français volants club, where the country’s leading athletes train.
All this time, with short interruptions, Didier Garage was the head of the federation. He was forced to leave his post and he did so on February 8, 2020. He and Beyer are friends of their youth both were figure skaters and represented the country in international tournaments. Therefore, it is possible that Garage did not interfere with Beyer’s work, although he knew about his inclinations and was notified that the sports ministry had removed the coach. For the sake of my own peace of mind, I philosophically and with dignity, without any bitterness because of this injustice, made the wise decision to resign and leave with my head held high, the functionary commented on the resignation.
It is important that the former head of the federation was also friends with ex-figure skater and coach Pascal Delorme, who in 2003 was accused of raping 12-year-old Ann-Lynn Rolland and sentenced to ten years in prison. The garage then gave a positive characterization to Delorme, who was opposed by six more skaters. That case was not connected with the head of the federation. And the person whom nobody listened to was Didier Lucine a figure skating coach from Annecy. He knew the stories of the girls, but there was nothing he could do.
How Many Victims Remain In Shame And Fear?
Where the information came from Lyusin, he does not explain. But he recalls how, after one of the attempts to convey it to the press, Garage publicly declared that Annecy had the worst conditions for training, and the specialists there cost nothing. “When the president of the federation tells the whole of France that it is no longer necessary to come and skate to Annecy, that it’s over there, that it sucks, we are obviously losing students. We are losing people who would like to come, but do not come. It’s complicated!” – quotes the trainer FranceInfo.
Now he rejoices at the lively reaction of the Minister of Sports and Gajage’s departure from office. And he believes that new people must break a system that has worked for decades. Members of the Athletes’ Commission of the French National Olympic Committee also supported him and all the victims. How many victims are left in shame and fear? How many could have been avoided? We can no longer be silent, Now is the time to act together. To break this silence is to serve the sport, reads their open letter, published in Le Parisien on 4 February. For example, the two-time Olympic champion in judo Teddy Riner and the freestyle and silver medalist of the Olympic Games Marie Martino, and more than thirty athletes in total, signed under him.
What’s in store for Beyer? While he continues to work (although his surname has disappeared from the websites of all organizations) it seems that this time he will not get off with only warnings. The coach came to the journalists only once, when he called the intimate relationship with Abitbol inappropriate adding that he was sincerely sorry. Sarah replied that what was happening should be called exclusively the word rape. She was as emotional as in all the statements made in the past ten days. Well, you can understand. And without emotion, let the investigation investigate the case.