SafeSport Permanently Bans USA Taekwondo Olympian Steven Lopez
The US Center for SafeSport has now permanently banned USA Taekwondo (USAT) Olympian Steven Lopez some 17 months after receiving the case. But as Deadspin reports, will the ban be permanent? It remains to be seen if SafeSport vigorously defends the ban against Steven Lopez or if they look for an excuse to lift the ban much as they did with Steven’s brother, Jean Lopez. Our law firms have filed a lawsuit against SafeSport along with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) for failing to protect athletes.
According to National Public Radio in May of 2018, USA Taekwondo first received a formal complaint against brothers Steven and Jean Lopez in 2006. But the former head of USA Taekwondo cleared them of wrongdoing.
According to the SafeSport investigator’s report, Steven Lopez has refused to make himself available to SafeSport investigators since mid-April. As a result, Lopez was placed on interim suspension by SafeSport in May of 2018 and given the permanent ban in August of 2018.
The victim, in this case, said that she met Steven Lopez when she was ten years old. Both Steven and Jean Lopez were her personal coaches from 1997 to 2002 when she quit the sport at the age of 16. She alleges the sexual abuse began when she was 14-years-old.
Steven Lopez groomed the victim and took advantage of the relationship between Lopez’ parents and the victim as they were next door neighbors.
The victim said they developed what she called an inappropriate relationship and were acting like boyfriend and girlfriend even though Steven was 8 years older.
Photos show her sitting on his lap. She told investigators they would hold hands, and that Steven gave her a ring. When she was 14 years old, she was laying on a couch when Lopez began running her “private area.” The next day he took her shirt off and touched her inappropriately. That led to oral sex.
When the victim came forward in early April of 2018, SafeSport turned over her name to Lopez and his attorney. Two weeks later, family members of Lopez were inappropriately texting the victim and trying to influence the victim’s family.
The report states that based on the credibility of the parties and the preponderance of the evidence, Lopez engaged in sexual misconduct. Lopez is now permanently ineligible to compete as a result of taking advantage of the significant power imbalance.
Attorney Stephen Estey, representing numerous champion taekwondo athletes currently suing the USOC, SafeSport along with Steven and Jean Lopez, issued the following statement:
“The decision to permanently ban Steven Lopez is 20 years too late. While the USAT and USOC were ignoring the Lopez Brothers pattern of sexual misconduct and paying them big money to win medals and make money for the USOC, our athletes were suffering. Since SafeSport has not made their policies available, we can only hope that Lopez does not find a loophole to escape accountability much like his older brother Jean. SafeSport must vigorously defend the ban if and when Lopez appeals the decision. Otherwise, the ban is a paper tiger with no will to protect our athletes.”
If you have been sexually abused by a club coach, please contact our attorneys at 800-474-5201.