U.S. Figure Skating Coach Richard Callaghan Permanently Banned Over Sexual Misconduct Claims

Richard Callaghan was first accused of sexual misconduct in 1999

Richard Callaghan
Photo: Akira Suwa/Philadelphia Inquirer/Sipa

Figure skating coach Richard Callaghan, celebrated as the man who helped coach Tara Lipinski to an Olympic gold medal in 1998, has been banned from the sport for life over sexual misconduct allegations that recently resurfaced more than 20 years after they first emerged.

Callaghan was declared “permanently ineligible” on Wednesday by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, who cited various violations, including sexual misconduct involving a minor, physical misconduct and emotional misconduct.

U.S. Figure Skating also implemented a permanent ban on Callaghan Wednesday, saying in a statement provided to PEOPLE that the move was “in compliance with the policies and procedures of the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”

The removal of Callaghan from the sport comes a little over one year after he was suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into misconduct allegations initially reported back in 1999.

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Callaghan’s former student Craig Maurizi told the New York Times in 1999 that the coach had engaged in “inappropriate sexual conduct” with him when he was 15 years old, and that the abuse developed into a “full sexual relationship” when Maurizi was 18.

The sexual relationship allegedly continued off and on for many years, though Callaghan — also known for coaching Todd Eldredge to a world championship and six U.S. titles — denied ever having engaged in “any improper behavior.”

U.S. Figure Skating dismissed the claims at the time because they were not filed within 60 days of when the abuse was said to have occurred, according to the Times.

But in January 2018, Maurizi filed the allegations in a report with SafeSport, which eventually led to Callaghan’s suspension that March, USA Today reports.

The ban this week comes following a second wave of allegations made against Callagahan by former student Adam Schmidt.

Schmidt filed a lawsuit earlier this month that claimed Callaghan sexually abused him from 1999 to 2001, starting when he was just 14 years old, according to USA Today.

Schmidt has also repeatedly placed blame on U.S. Figure Skating in multiple interviews and in his lawsuit, claiming they were well aware of the abuse, but did nothing to stop it.

“How did this happen? Why 20 years ago did everyone know and do nothing? Because if they would have done something then … I never would have been abused,” he told ABC News.

In light of Callaghan’s permanent ban, both men have expressed their happiness with the decision.

“I feel finally vindicated,” Maurizi told the Times. “This guy’s a monster. This man has ruined the lives and careers of many people. I believe he should be punished to whatever extent is possible.”

Schmidt, meanwhile, told the outlet in a statement the ban was a “major victory.”

“Now he will be forever known as the predator who delivered medals to a corrupt organization who accepted them in exchange for the safety and protection of children,” he said, referring to U.S. Figure Skating.

The organization also issued an open letter from its leadership team that declared its support for victims of abuse shortly after Schmidt filed his lawsuit.

“U.S. Figure Skating does not tolerate abuse or misconduct and there is no place for such behavior in sports or anywhere in life,” the message read. “U.S. Figure Skating has a nearly two-decades history of having rules, policies and procedures in place to deter predators from participating in our sport and to address abuse and misconduct. Since May 2000, we have acted upon every reported incident of suspected sexual abuse.”

The U.S. Center for SafeSport told PEOPLE it does not comment on specific matters to “protect the integrity of the process and the privacy of the individuals involved.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.

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