Ex-Partner of Deceased U.S. Figure Skater Coughlin Says She Was Abused
One of the former skating partners of two-time U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin has accused him in a series of Facebook posts of sexually assaulting her over a two-year period.
Coughlin, who killed himself in January, “hurt at least 10 people including me,” wrote Bridget Namiotka, who skated with Coughlin from 2004, when she was 14, through the 2007 season. “Nobody innocent hangs themselves.”
Namiotka’s attorney confirmed to The Associated Press the comments were made by her.
“My office alone represents three women across a generation who really didn’t know each other until they found they had very similar stories, and all of them wanted to keep their privacy because nobody wants to disclose this,” said John Manly, who has represented victims of sexual abuse for more than 25 years. “I think Bridget has courageously said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore.'”
The U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating had begun investigating allegations lodged against Coughlin late last year. They found enough evidence to warrant an interim suspension earlier this year, barring Coughlin — who had become a coach and well-known TV commentator after retiring from skating — from attending activities sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Coughlin, who had maintained his innocence throughout the investigations, was found dead Jan. 18 at his father’s home in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 33.
“Athlete safety and wellbeing continue to be a top priority of U.S. Figure Skating. We fully support all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and encourage anyone who either has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to report it,” U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement Tuesday.
“We condemn any and all acts of bullying and shaming of those who share their story. Bullying and victim-shaming are wrong and will not be tolerated,” the statement said. “U.S. Figure Skating commends and supports those who speak up as we all work to end abuse and misconduct in sport.”
Coughlin and Namiotka captured the silver medal at junior nationals in 2006 before ending their partnership the following year. Coughlin later teamed with Caydee Denney, making the podium at several Grand Prix assignments and finishing second at the 2012 Four Continents.
The team stopped competing after the 2014-15 season, and Coughlin effectively retired.
“I understand his family may not want to believe this, and I’m so sorry for this loss, but he did these things,” said Manly, who also represented victims during the sexual assault case against former sports doctor Larry Nassar, which brought intense scrutiny to both Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.
Three weeks after Coughlin’s death, SafeSport announced it was halting its probe into Coughlin because its purpose is to “protect the sport and community and other persons from the risk associated with sexual misconduct and abuse.” That risk expired when Coughlin killed himself.
Namiotka, now 29, works as a figure skating coach. Manly said the reason she is speaking out is to counter months of “mistreatment by U.S. Figure Skating and Coughlin supporters.”
Manly also accused the national governing body of helping to create the impression that the women abused by Coughlin were “crazy and making it up.”
“And for the sport, for U.S. Figure Skating, to allow this narrative to come out, how these women are just liars and want money — just a bunch of nonsense — is no accident,” he said. “It was designed to victim-shame anybody else who might have been hurt by him and to keep them quiet.”