Former Olympic skater-turned-coach John Zimmerman has been suspended by a US safeguarding body for allegedly covering up a sex abuse scandal involving a 13-year-old female student he trained ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The allegations against the coach, who represented the US team at the 2002 Olympics, were based on a felony charge against French champion Morgan Cipres, who was accused of sending photos of his penis to the underage girl who was being coached by Zimmerman in Florida at the time.
The incident took place in 2017 when Cipres and his skating partner Vanessa James were getting ready for the 2018 Olympics.
Cipres was training at the same rink with the girl and allegedly sent her photos of his genitals via Instagram.
A two-year suspension for John Zimmerman for “abuse of process, emotional misconduct, failure to report.” Six months probation for coaches Silvia Fontana and Vinny Dispenza. https://t.co/QoWssmG6wN
— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) March 10, 2021
According to local reports, a coach at the Advent Health Center Ice Rink, Vinny Dispenza, had asked the girl and her teammate – another underage girl – to message Cipres asking him to send the photos in exchange for a pizza that Dispenza said he would pay for.
After the details of the controversial episode surfaced, a huge scandal erupted with Cipres facing a felony charge and his crime being reported as a third-degree felony, which carries up to five years in prison.
Zimmerman, who also coached Cipres, was reportedly aware of the incident and tried to keep the girl’s family from reporting the abuse because it could have negatively affected the skaters’ preparation for the Winter Games, in which they finished fifth.
Zimmerman and his wife, Silvia Fontana, reportedly told the girl’s parents that she was to blame and said the teen was a “pretty girl and men have their needs.”
The US Center for SafeSport handed a two-year suspension to Zimmerman, citing “abuse of process, emotional misconduct, failure to report,” as the reasons for the ban.