He is at the heart of the scandal that shook French figure skating a year ago. Former trainer Gilles Beyer was indicted on Friday for “sexual assault” and “sexual harassment” after accusations from at least six skaters or ex-skaters. Including Sarah Abitbol. The bronze medalist at the 2000 Worlds had questioned him in a book published in early 2020, “Un si long silence” (Plon).
She recounts the facts of repeated rape and sexual assault in the early 1990s, when she was only between 15 and 17 years old at the time. At the time, Gilles Beyer recognized “Intimate relationships” and “Inappropriate” with Sarah Abitbol, presenting her with «excuses». Apologies immediately refused by it.
Following these revelations, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation in early February for “rape and sexual assault on minors by a person in authority”, aimed in particular at verifying the existence of other potential victims.
In charge of the investigation, the Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) had placed Gilles Beyer in custody on Wednesday morning, before his presentation to an investigating judge on Friday. The Paris prosecutor’s office has indeed opened a judicial investigation into the counts of “sexual assault by a person with authority and sexual harassment by a person with authority” targeting the one who was champion of France in 1978.
These prosecutions do not include the old accusations of several women, minors at the time of the alleged facts, since they were time-barred (this is the case for Sarah Abitbol, who did not file a complaint). In contrast, more recent charges, brought by six adult women at the time of the alleged crime, were not and could be prosecuted. Three of them accuse him of sexual assault.
A liberation of the word allowed by the book of Sarah Abitbol. Several skaters or ex-skaters have also indicated to have been victims of the actions of Gilles Beyer, such as Hélène Godard, Laure Detante or even Najma Mahamoud, champion of France juniors in 2014. Sabina Mahamoud, her mother, said herself “Relieved and confident that justice will be done”.
The Federation questioned
The earthquake caused by this flood of revelations goes beyond the simple Beyer case. Other skaters have thus brought charges of sexual assault, sexual harassment or blackmail targeting other coaches or former skating coaches.
Read also : Sexual violence in skating: around twenty coaches questioned
The scandal was right, at the beginning of February 2020, of the president of the French Federation of ice sports (FFSG), Didier Gailhaguet. At the head of the discipline for more than twenty years, the latter was forced to resign from his post, put under pressure by the Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu.
In question: the responsibility of Gailhaguet concerning the return to skating of Gilles Beyer, despite an administrative investigation in the early 2000s, for inappropriate attitudes with skaters, which had led the ministry to remove him from its ranks in 2001. Didier Gailhaguet had defended himself, assuring that he had never protected Gilles Beyer. He had even tried to counterattack by implicating the ministry.
Read also : Didier Gailhaguet: the end of an ice age
After these cascading revelations, the Ministry of Sports had initiated an administrative investigation with the General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research (IGESR). This highlighted the suspicions weighing on 21 FFSG coaches, including 12 accused for “acts of harassment or sexual assault”. Of these, three were sentenced in the past to firm or suspended prison terms.
Following this damning report, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a new investigation on September 4 for “rape” and “sexual assault” by a person with authority over a minor. The scandal is far from over.
Romain Métairie with AFP