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Scandalized French Olympic figure skater Morgan Cipres retires amid lewd photo allegations

Morgan Cipres, the French Olympic figure skater accused of sending lewd photos to a 13-year-old female American skater, has announced his retirement nearly one year after the US Center for SafeSport and Florida law enforcement launched an investigation into the three-year-old claim.

Both the 29-year-old Cipres and his pairs partner, 33-year-old Vanessa James announced their respective retirements through the French Federation of Ice Sport on Tuesday. The team was considered an Olympic medal contender for the 2022 Beijing Games, according to USA Today.

While training in the Tampa area in December of 2017, Cipres allegedly sent two photographs of his penis to the 13-year-old over Instagram’s direct messenger, but the allegations did not surface until USA Today released its bombshell report two years later.

Morgan Cipres (right), the French Olympic figure skater accused of sending lewd photos to a 13-year-old female American skater, has announced his retirement nearly one year after the US Center for SafeSport and Florida law enforcement launched an investigation into the three-year-old claim. Both the 29-year-old Cipres and his pairs partner, 33-year-old Vanessa James announced their respective retirements through the French Federation of Ice Sport on Tuesday. James (left) has not accused Cipres of any misconduct

Morgan Cipres (right), the French Olympic figure skater accused of sending lewd photos to a 13-year-old female American skater, has announced his retirement nearly one year after the US Center for SafeSport and Florida law enforcement launched an investigation into the three-year-old claim. Both the 29-year-old Cipres and his pairs partner, 33-year-old Vanessa James announced their respective retirements through the French Federation of Ice Sport on Tuesday. James (left) has not accused Cipres of any misconduct 

At the time, Cipres declined to comment to USA Today: ‘I cannot talk with you about anything about that. I mean, I have nothing to say about this allegation.’

SafeSport launched an investigation into the matter last year, the girl and her parents told USA Today.

In June, the Pasco County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office reopened its investigation into the the allegations, a department spokesperson told USA Today.

Andrea Lewis, the girl’s attorney, told USA Today that her client is ‘fully cooperating with the investigation.’ 

The family also accused Cipres’s coaches, Olympians John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana, of shaming the girl in an effort to prevent them from reporting the allegations against Cipres, who was preparing for the 2018 PyeongChang Games at the time.

The girl claims she was harassed for weeks by Zimmerman and Fontana, who told her that she was a ‘pretty girl,’ adding that ‘men have their needs.’

Cipres and James went on to finish fifth in the pairs competition in 2018.

The incident allegedly began when figure skating coach Vinny Dispenza told the victim and another underage girl to request the pictures from Cipres in exchange for the promise of a pizza.

Dispenza is also accused of threatening the girl, who claimed, ‘If I said something, he said I would never skate again,’ according to USA Today.

USA Today obtained an email from the alleged victim’s tutor to a psychologist who worked with the girl.

‘Please ask her to share with you the many statements that have been made to her over the past few weeks (mostly by John) in an attempt to manipulate or scare her into keeping quiet,’ the tutor wrote. ‘She has been told that telling will place a target on her back with French fans, that she is the type of girl who does this (collect pics), that she has been asking for it by her clothing choices, that her dad is an attorney and imagine what he will do if he finds out, that she will destroy his career and that of his partner, and much more.’

The psychiatrist, Dara Bushman, told USA Today that she followed the correct procedure: ‘I did what I was bound to do ethically. I contacted the parents. I contacted the authorities. I wanted to make sure the child was safe.’

U.S. Center for SafeSport does not comment on specific matters of its investigations.

These allegations follow those of American figure skater Ashley Wagner, who claimed in August of 2019 that she was sexually assaulted by John Coughlin, a fellow American skater who committed suicide last year. 

In an interview with USA Today, the 28-year-old Wagner says Coughlin assaulted her at a house party near the skating team’s camp in Colorado Springs back in 2008, when she was 17 and he was 22.

After she decided to sleep at the house, Wagner claims, Coughlin crawled into her bed and began kissing her neck.

‘I pretended to be deep asleep, hoping he would stop,’ she said. ‘He didn’t. When his hands started to wander, when he started touching me, groping my body, I tried to shift around so that he would think I was waking up and would stop. He didn’t.’

Wagner explained that she did not try to get away at first because she was ‘absolutely paralyzed in fear.’

‘The next morning, he acted like nothing happened, so I acted like nothing happened. I thought that maybe I had misinterpreted it all. In 2008, I didn’t have the knowledge and empowerment that came with the #MeToo movement. No one had explained consent to me. Something that was so ambiguous then is very clear now.

‘I was sexually assaulted.’

Wagner won an Olympic team bronze medal in 2014 and is now retired from competitive skating. She says she feared speaking out earlier because she competes in a sport where judges determine success.

Coughlin’s suicide occurred three months after his former skating partner, Bridget Namiotka, accused him of sexually abusing her when she was between the ages of 14 and 17. Namiotka, now 30, was four years younger than Coughlin. 

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