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French skating chief Didier Gailhaguet resigns amid sexual assault scandal

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Former French Ice Sports Federation (FFSG) President Didier Gailhaguet as he announces his resignation to the press after a FFSG exceptional council in Paris on February, 8.
Former French Ice Sports Federation (FFSG) President Didier Gailhaguet as he announces his resignation to the press after a FFSG exceptional council in Paris on February, 8.   -   Copyright  Philippe LOPEZ / AFP
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The long-serving head of the French Ice Skating Federation (FFSG), Didier Gailhaguet, resigned on Saturday after former skaters spoke of sexual assaults by coaches.

France's Sports Minister, Roxana Maracineanu, had called for Gailhaguet's resignation last week after prosecutors opened an investigation into accusations from 10-time French champion Sarah Abitbol that she was raped by skating coach Gilles Beyer when she was a teen.

Two other former skaters have also accused Beyer, and denounced a lack of support from the federation.

On Saturday, Gailhaguet said that “out of the need for appeasement I have taken the wise decision to resign from my position as president of the federation."

Breaking the code of silence

Beyer was allowed to continue having roles at the French skating federation until 2018, despite having been let go by the French sports ministry in 2001 following a report highlighting repeated “serious acts" committed against young skaters, French agency press AFP recounts.

This new scandal broke out after Sarah Abitbol's publishing of her book, Such a long silence (Un si long silence) last week, in which she accused her coach of repeatedly raping her from 1990 to 1992.

In a written declaration sent to AFP on Friday, Beyer offered his "apologies" and conceded to having had "intimate" and "inappropriate relations" with Abitbol.

"If my memories of their exact circumstances differ from hers, I am aware that, given my duties and her age at the time, these relationships were in any event inappropriate," Beyer told AFP.

If Abitbol did not break the silence until thirty years later, French Minister of Sports pointed to the role of Gailhaguet in the maintenance of Gilles Beyer in the skating circuit, despite suspicions in 2000.

For Roxana Maracineanu, who won a showdown against a sport federation boss, called it "a first step". She insisted on Twitter that the "steps taken" by her ministry "aimed to analyse the dysfunctions which allowed serious acts to occur over time within the federation."

After finally stepping aside, Gailhaguet took another swipe at Maracineanu, maintaining his view that she was making him “a sacrificial victim" for the wrongdoing of others.