Figure Skating Partner of Late John Coughlin Claims He 'Sexually Abused' Her
Bridget Namiotka has accused her former figure skating partner John Coughlin, who died of an apparent suicide in January, of sexual abuse.
In a series of four Facebook posts on Sunday, Namiotka, 29, alleged that Coughlin “sexually abused” her as she replied to a since-deleted post that had been written in support of the skater, according to USA Today.
“I’m sorry but John hurt at least 10 people including me,” read Namiotka’s first post, which is still visible on her Facebook. “He sexually abused me for 2 years. Nobody innocent hangs themself [sic].”
She continued in a second post shortly after: “Someone that’s innocent doesn’t hang himself. Think about the victims when you’re speaking up for what he did to at least 10 girls.”
“Think about all of the girls he hurt,” Namiotka added, concluding in a fourth message: “Grooming happens. It happened to me and he hurt a lot of girls. Think about the victims.”
Namiotka and Coughlin teamed up from 2004 to 2007. They won three medals together on the Junior Grand Prix series and placed fourth at the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championships.
Coughlin’s former rep did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Sarah G. Klein, an attorney for Namiotka, told PEOPLE: “While she has struggled her whole adult life with the aftermath of this abuse, Bridget’s courage in coming forward about what she suffered at the hands of John Coughlin is heroic. It is her hope that by coming public, his other victims feel less alone.”
Coughlin, who died at age 33, was a two-time U.S. Pairs Champion and worked as a coach, TV commentator and skater with U.S. Figure Skating and the International Skating Union. He participated in two world championships, placing sixth in 2011 and eighth in 2012.
According to USA Today, on Dec. 17, SafeSport — an organization that has “exclusive jurisdiction over sexual misconduct” in the Olympic loop and investigates other abuse allegations across multiple sports — restricted Coughlin’s eligibility to participate in figure skating pending final resolution of a matter presented to them. On Jan. 8, Coughlin resigned from his post as U.S. brand manager for John Wilson Blades, a skating blade retail company, USA Today reported.
One day before his death, SafeSport called for a “temporary suspension” of Coughlin, according to a release from the Professional Skating Association that was sent to members and obtained by PEOPLE.
The statement noted that Coughlin was “prohibited from participating, in any capacity, in any activity or competition authorized by, organized by, or under the auspices of the United States Olympic Committee, the national governing bodies recognized by the United States Olympic Committee, including U.S. Figure Skating, and/or a Local Affiliated Organization of a national governing body recognized by the United States Olympic Committee.”
The details of the investigation or why he was suspended were not provided, as it is against SafeSport’s policy to comment on ongoing investigations.
Although the details of SafeSport’s investigation were unknown, a source familiar with their process previously told PEOPLE, “a suspension means there have been enough allegations or concern about safety to where we say, ‘This person just cannot participate at all.’”
According to USA Today, SafeSport announced in February it was ending the investigation following Coughlin’s death. The source previously told PEOPLE that the center only operates on concerns of safety, rather than punishment, and they likely would not continue investigations after someone has died.
“We don’t suspend people as punishment,” the source said at the time. “We suspend people when there’s a concern of imminent harm.”
On Jan. 7, Coughlin told USA Today the allegations against him were “unfounded.”
“While I wish I could speak freely about the unfounded allegations levied against me, the SafeSport rules prevent me from doing so since the case remains pending,” he wrote in an email to the outlet. “I note only that the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation in no way constitutes a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to the allegation.”
A spokesperson for SafeSport told USA Today that it was “not true” Coughlin was unable to speak about the investigation.
“The SafeSport Code and the interim measure process that was communicated to him directly, and which is on our website, makes it clear that he could provide information, evidence, speak for himself and even ask for a hearing that would have been accommodated in 72 hours by rule,” the spokesperson said.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.