French pairs figure skater Morgan Cipres and his partner, Vanessa James, retired from the sport on Tuesday amid allegations that Cipres sent lewd photos to a 13-year-old American figure skater on Instagram, according to USA Today.
Cipres, 29, and James, 33, were expected to contend for a medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The pair has won five French national titles, a bronze medal in the European Championships and finished fifth at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.
Cipres allegedly sent lewd photos to 13-year-old girl
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office in Florida reopened its investigation into Cipres in June, according to USA Today, after he allegedly direct messaged two photos of his penis to a 13-year-old American figure skater in 2017.
Cipres allegedly sent the messages to the girl from his verified Instagram account. The two skated at the same rink in Florida.
The girl and her parents alleged that Cipres’ coaches tried to keep them from reporting the incident to authorities, per the report, and both threatened and shamed her. Cipres and James were preparing for the PyeongChang games at the time, which is why Cipres’ coaches — John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana, both former Olympians themselves — allegedly wanted the news kept quiet.
Both Zimmerman and Fontana denied the allegations. Cipres told USA Today in 2019 that he has “nothing to say about this allegation.” It is also currently being investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
A psychologist who worked with the girl told USA Today that she contacted police after an email from the girl’s tutor in 2017, as she “wanted to make sure the child was safe.” The skater initially declined to cooperate with the sheriff’s department, however is now “fully cooperating” with police — which is why the case was reopened.
“Being victimized by an adult is traumatizing for a child and she still struggles with what happened to her on a daily basis,” Andrea Lewis, an attorney for the skater and her family, told USA Today in June. “Not only was she harmed by the perpetrator, but also by other adults that she trusted who attempted to cover up his misconduct and intimidate her into being silent. She is extremely grateful for the words of support from survivors and other people all around the world. Those voices have given her the courage to speak up and do what is necessary to make sure that this never happens again.”
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