US Olympic And Paralympic Committee Covered Up Abuse Of Athlete With Autism, Lawsuit Alleges
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Paralympic swimmer Parker Egbert was repeatedly assaulted and raped by teammate Robert Griswold for over a year, and the Colorado Springs-based U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee was complicit and negligent in allowing it to happen, according to a lawsuit filed late last week in the U.S. District Court of Colorado.
Egbert, 19, a Paralympic swimmer who was born with autism and has developmental delay and intellectual disability, competed for the United States in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
The lawsuit alleges Egbert was “being violently and repeatedly sexually assaulted and harassed by his teammate, Defendant Robert Griswold.” Egbert is represented by Salzano, Ettinger, Lampert & Wilson of New York and San Francisco-based Erickson Kramer Osborne; the law firms are representing Paralympic athletes who allege they were sexually abused by Griswold, according to the Erickson Kramer Osborne website.
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In addition to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, the suit named the U.S. Center for SafeSport as a defendant. The Denver-based nonprofit, funded by the USOPC, was created in 2017 to protect athletes from sexual assault and abuse, but has faced criticism over its efforts, according to national news stories.
Griswold, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, was Egbert’s Paralympic teammate and traveled with him to Japan for the 2020 Paralympic Games, which took place in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit alleges that Griswold acted as Egbert’s “de-facto chaperone” during the competition, rooming together in the Olympic Village. The lawsuit also alleges that Griswold was assigned to be Egbert’s supervisor during the competition, rather than a certified adult supervisor.
“Remarkably, Defendant USOPC and Defendant U.S. Center for SafeSport allowed Griswold to supervise and share a bedroom with Plaintiff without any oversight, despite the fact that USOPC and SafeSport had received reports that Griswold was sexually assaulting other teammates,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims that Griswold was added to the SafeSport database in 2020 for “allegations of misconduct,” but had his suspension lifted prior to the Olympics.
“The allegations brought forth by the complaint filed today are extremely concerning and we take them very seriously,” said Jon Mason, a USOPC spokesman. “We’ve made the decision to place two staff members on administrative leave and have also stopped the work of several contractors with U.S. Paralympics Swimming. We’re also continuing our investigation of the allegations to help us determine the facts, and we are committed to taking appropriate action.”
Griswold competed for the U.S. Paralympic team in 2016 and 2020, winning two gold medals and a bronze medal during those competitions.
The lawsuit alleges that Egbert was repeatedly assaulted and raped throughout the competition in 2021, so much so that Egbert required surgery for the damage caused by Griswold. Additionally, Griswold told Egbert that he “would get in trouble” and “the police would come” if he ever told anyone about the alleged assaults.
Egbert said within the lawsuit that Griswold would tell him “this is what I deserve,” during these assaults.
Following the Paralympics in 2021, Egbert told his parents that he was being assaulted by Griswold, but that the USOPC dismissed the claims when they were brought forward by Egbert’s parents.
“Plaintiff’s parents expressed their concerns to the USOPC, but the USOPC failed to investigate the issue and summarily and dismissively told Plaintiff’s parents that Plaintiff was just fine, and that Griswold posed absolutely no risk to Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims that the efforts from the USOPC to hide the assaults were in part due to Griswold’s status as “a premier swimmer” and because his parents were “deeply embedded with leaders throughout the U.S. Paralympic swimming community.”
The alleged rape and assault against Egbert continued through August 2022 when Egbert and Griswold were both living and training at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, despite the USOPC’s assurances that everything was fine between the two swimmers, according to the lawsuit.
“It is axiomatic that all individuals deserve to be protected from the lifelong physical, mental, and psychological trauma inevitably resulting from abuse. That expectation is exceedingly heightened when those individuals are in the custody and care of entities such as Defendant USOPC, which frequently assures athletes (as well as their parents and guardians) that it operates and maintains a safe environment and promises to protect athletes in its custody and care,” the lawsuit reads. “In addition to USOPC’s explicit and implicit assurances, USOPC has a Congressionally-created legal duty — pursuant to the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 … to protect athletes from abuse.”
Griswold was temporarily suspended from training in August 2022 due to the alleged assaults of Egbert.
“Parker Egbert filed a lawsuit today in Colorado federal court against Robert Griswold, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, and U.S. Center for SafeSport. The action sets forth serious allegations of sexual abuse by Mr. Griswold and asserts that the committees were responsible and complicit in allowing these heinous acts to occur,” Frank Salzano, of Salzano Ettinger Lampert & Wilson, and Elizabeth Kramer of Erickson Kramer Osborne, said in a statement provided to The Gazette. “The facts and circumstances are laid out in detail in the court filing and for that reason the Egbert family will not be making any statements regarding the matter at this time. As you can imagine, this ordeal has been extraordinarily difficult for the Egbert family, as well as the other victims and families that have been impacted, so we ask that their privacy be respected.”
As part of the lawsuit Egbert and his family are seeking a trial for damages caused by Griswold’s alleged continued assaults of Egbert, and the USOPC for allegedly covering up the conduct of the assailant.
© 2022 The Gazette
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
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