Coach, former Olympic skater John Zimmerman suspended after allegedly covering up sexual abuse

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Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France with their coach John Zimmerman at the 2018 Olympics
Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France with their coach John Zimmerman, right at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 15, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Famer and former Olympian John Zimmerman was suspended from the sport after allegations that he covered up the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old female skater that he coached, according to USA Today’s Christine Brennan.

Zimmerman was suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport for two years, though it is still subject to appeal.

Zimmerman accused of covering up abuse

The incident in 2017 starts with French Olympic skater Morgan Cipres, who was being coached by Zimmerman in Florida.

Cipres is facing a felony charge in the state after he allegedly sent a 13-year-old girl, who also skated at the rink and was coached by Zimmerman, lewd photos of his penis from his verified Instagram account.

Cipres, 29, retired from the sport in September. He and pairs partner Vanessa James took fifth at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, and were expected to compete for a medal at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

The girl and her parents, according to USA Today, were “implored” by Zimmerman and his wife and coaching partner Silvia Fontana to stay quiet about the photos — which they believe was due to the impending Olympics in South Korea.

The girl and her parents were allegedly intimidated by Zimmerman and Fontana for weeks, and claim that the two told them that the girl was to blame for the photos because she was a “pretty girl and men have their needs,” per the report. Zimmerman and Fontana also allegedly said that the 13-year-old's story wouldn’t be believed by anyone and that she'd be shamed on social media.

It is also alleged that a third coach, Vinny Dispenza, initiated the entire incident and threatened the girl by telling her that she would never skate again if she said anything.

Neither Fontana nor Dispenza have been suspended, though they were each given six months probation. A warrant has been issued for Cipres’ arrest in Florida, though he is believed to be living in France, per the report.

Zimmerman, 47, won three national pairs titles alongside partner Kyoko Ina and took bronze at the 2002 world championship. They finished fifth at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake city, and were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.

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