Short track skaters end dispute

BY foxsports • July 27, 2013

A group of short track skaters who filed a grievance claiming U.S. Speedskating was incapable of carrying out its financial and managerial requirements as a governing body has reached a resolution of the dispute.

Under the terms of the settlement announced Friday, U.S. Speedskating has agreed to undertake specific measures designed to increase transparency, improve its internal grievance process and strengthen future team selection procedures.

U.S. Speedskating also said it will continue to review its conflict of interest policies to ensure that the best people serve in governance positions. Under recently adopted bylaws, U.S. Speedskating will elect a new board of directors, including four independent members, who will take office on July 1, 2014.

In return, the short track skaters will voluntarily dismiss their complaint with prejudice.

"U.S. Speedskating has been working tirelessly over the last few months to improve the organization and our governance, which we believe will mean better results on the ice for our athletes," USS president Mike Plant said in a statement. "This resolution will allow the organization and the individuals involved to move forward and work together as we get ready for the upcoming Olympics in Sochi."

The athletes' attorney, Edward Williams, called it "a difficult 15 months for short track athletes, their parents and supporters."

He credited Plant for making much progress since taking over as the governing body's president in March.

"It is a testament to the new leadership that we were able to resolve this dispute in this manner," Williams said in the statement.

U.S. Speedskating said it has posted the job of executive director, which it expects to hire in the next few months.

The governing body has been dealing with the fallout from an athlete mutiny against the former national short track coach, who was accused of physically abusing athletes, and separate claims of improper sexual relationships with underage athletes against Andy Gabel, the group's former president and an Olympic medalist and Hall of Famer.

Last fall, national short track head coach Jae Su Chun was accused by a dozen team members of physical, emotional and verbal abuse. He also was alleged to have ordered speedskater Simon Cho to sabotage the skates of a Canadian rival.

Chun denied all allegations, and other members of the team came to his defense. The coach and his top assistant agreed to resign from the organization and accept a suspension through the Sochi Games, but the opposing factions struggled to come together.

The allegations against Gabel go back to his long track skating days in the 1990s. Two former teammates accused him of sexual relationships that started when they were 15, with two-time medalist Nikki Meyer claiming Gabel raped her in their first encounter.

Gabel denied forcing himself on anyone but acknowledged making mistakes and apologized for "crossing that line." He resigned from both U.S. Speedskating and the International Skating Union.