Olympics: Ashley Wagner exposes sexual assault in 2008

Ashley Wagner sexual assault
Olympic bronze medalist and three-time U.S. figure skating champion Ashley Wagner said she was sexually assaulted by former figure skater John Coughlin in June 2008.

Wagner, 28, said the incident occurred after a party at the U.S. team’s figure skating camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. Wagner was 17 years old at the time, while Coughlin was 22.

Wagner, who wrote a first-person story for USA Today Sports on the incident and also shared her story on social media, said she was asleep in bed at the home where the party occurred when Coughlin got into bed with her. She said Coughlin then kissed and groped her.

“I was absolutely paralyzed with fear,” she told USA Today.

Wagner said she first pretended to be asleep, hoping he would stop. When he continued, Wagner grabbed Coughlin’s hands and told him to stop.

He then stopped and left the room without saying a word.

Wagner said she and Coughlin never talked about the incident.

Coughlin died by suicide on Jan. 18 at the age of 33, one day after he was suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating for unspecified conduct.

At that time, he was accused by three different people of sexual misconduct. Wagner went to U.S. Figure Skating in February.

Wagner is not the only elite figure skater to accuse Coughlin. Bridget Namiokta, Coughlin’s pairs teammate from 2004-07, has accused Coughlin of sexually abusing her for two years.

Wagner said she was compelled to come forward because of Coughlin’s suspension and the #MeToo movement. She also shared her story on Instagram, writing: “Believe women. In 2008 I was sexually assaulted. I didn’t understand what happened to me or what it really meant. I feel so strongly that people need to talk more about these experiences, that they need to have a bright light turned on the dark corners where they thrive. This happens all too often to both men and women, and we need to do better for our next generation. Talk about this, make this feel real so that we can help out those who need it!”

“What happened to Ashley should not happen to anyone, period.” USFS spokeswoman Barbara Reichert said in a statement to USA Today. “Ashley is incredibly strong; not just to have the courage to come forward with her story, but to share her experience publicly to help others.”