I Was 17 When John Coughlin 'Put His Hands Down My Pants'

Ashley Wagner describes 2008 assault that left her 'paralyzed in fear'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2019 9:55 AM CDT
I Was 17 When John Coughlin 'Put His Hands Down My Pants'
Ashley Wagner smiles after performing during the US Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif., on Jan. 5, 2018.   (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Facing allegations of misconduct, retired figure skater John Coughlin committed suicide in January after learning he'd been suspended from US Figure Skating activities. In May, former skating partner Bridget Namiotka said Coughlin sexually abused her over two years, adding she was one of at least 10 victims. Now, another figure skater is stepping forward. Ashley Wagner, whom you'll likely remember from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, says Coughlin kissed and groped her following a June 2008 house party in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she was attending a skating camp as a 17-year-old. "It was the middle of the night when I felt him crawl into my bed," she writes of the then-22-year-old in an essay published Thursday by USA Today. "He started kissing my neck," then "started touching me, groping my body."

"I was absolutely paralyzed in fear," the 2016 World silver medalist tells USA Today in an interview. "I remember feeling him shift his weight onto me, remember him putting his hands down my pants." After five minutes, Wagner says she started to cry and told Coughlin to stop, which he did. "The next morning, he acted like nothing happened, so I acted like nothing happened ... but it's haunted me ever since," she says. Still, Wagner says she only named Coughlin to lend credibility to the account, which she brought to US Figure Skating in February. Her goal is to expose "a pressure-cooker environment that will continue to create uncomfortable, inappropriate, and unsafe work places unless something is done about it," she writes, noting young skaters are particularly vulnerable. "Uncomfortable power imbalances thrive to this day." (Read more Ashley Wagner stories.)

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