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November 18, 2013

Skating for Justice

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Photo Credit: Clockwise: Courtesy of the subject, getty images, courtesy of the subject, Vernon Bryant/corbis

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In an e-mailed statement, Arrington said that SafeSport had no role in White & Case's investigation and that, in general, the governing bodies are independent and that the "USOC does not investigate or resolve allegations of abuse or misconduct" made against them.

"It was insulting," says one athlete who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation. "Who was SafeSport protecting? It was protecting U.S. Speedskating's image. There is no one to make the governing bodies accountable."

A USOC task force is considering creating a separate, independent entity like the United States Anti-Doping Agency to investigate claims of abuse by athletes, but nobody's holding their breath. "It's a joke," says Jonathan Little, who represents several victims of abuse by coaches. "What I want is for all the governing bodies and the USOC to go after child molesters as aggressively as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency went after Lance Armstrong. I appreciate the desire to kick out 20-year-old kids using drugs, but why can't men molesting young girls get the same priority?"

Sitting in her small studio apartment in an extended-stay hotel in Salt Lake City, Farrell tells me that she is happy with her decision to return to speedskating, though the sacrifices have been immense. She's not on the national team, which means she must pay for her own housing and training expenses, north of $1,800 a month. When she's not on the ice, she continues to work, selling life insurance for New York Life. During the day, when she's on a training break, she's usually got her face buried in her phone—every spare moment is an opportunity to connect with her clients.

The Olympic Trials on December 27 are Farrell's final hope for a comeback. Throughout September, her times continued to improve. Still, she remains a long shot. But Farrell's quest isn't about gold. It's about vindication, she tells me. Farrell wants Gabel banned from the sport and his name removed from the National Speedskating Hall of Fame. "Andy has done a lot for the sport, and he did help my skating, but there are some nonnegotiables in this world," says Farrell, who hopes that all the publicity she generates may help to right some of the wrongs and perhaps even deter another coach or competitor from taking advantage of a young, vulnerable athlete. "When people don't come forward, it helps these guys to get away with it. It took a lot for me to speak out, but what did I have to lose?"

According to Farrell, Gabel kissed her, and it went on from there. He let her drive his Lexus. They started going to his house together.

Andy Gabel, winning the short-track speedskating Olympic Trials in Lake Placid, New York, in 1998. LEFT: For a fleeting moment last March, Bridie Farrell held the lead in the 1,000- meter race for the American Cup.

"I appreciate the desire to kick out 20-year-old kids using drugs, but why can't men molesting young girls get the same priority?"


THE DARK SIDE OF GOING FOR GOLD (Clockwise)

Several athletes have emerged in recent years to reveal their stories of abuse at the hands of mentors and coaches

NIKKI MEYER 

The two-time Olympic speedskater came forward this year with allegations that at age 15, she'd been raped by legendary speedskater Andy Gabel.

KELLEY DAVIES CURRIN 

As a teenager, Currin was sexually abused by her Hall of Fame swimming coach, Rick Curl, who was later sentenced to seven years in prison for child sexual abuse.

KATHERINE STARR

At age 14, this two-time Olympic swimmer was raped by her coach, who was ultimately sentenced to 17 years in prison for abusing young athletes.

KAYLA HARRISON

Last year's gold medalist in judo reveal-ed she was sexually abused for three years, starting at 13, by her coach, Daniel Doyle. Doyle was sentenced to 10 years in prison.


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