DETROIT – A longtime U.S. figure skating coach accused of sexual abuse was banned for life last week by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations.
Richard Callaghan was ruled permanently ineligible for violations, including alleged sexual misconduct involving a minor. Callaghan was first suspended in March 2018 while an investigation was conducted into allegations made against him more than 20 years prior.
Earlier this month, former skater Adam Schmidt filed a lawsuit accusing Callaghan of sexually abusing him for two years beginning when he was 14.
Schmidt spoke with Local 4.
"You take all of your direction from your coach, so anything could have been asked of me and I would have delivered," Schmidt said, describing the mindset of a child with dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete.
Callaghan was famous for having coached Olympians Tara Lipinski and Todd Eldridge. Schmidt trained with Callaghan at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Township and the Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester. He said the abuse began in 1999, when he was just 14 years old.
"You really need to fall in line and you don't want to be somebody that speaks up causes any trouble or potentially do something that could damage your career," Schmidt said.
Schmidt isn't the first former student to raise allegations of sexual abuse by Callaghan. Craig Maurizi, now 56, was a student who later became an assistant coach.
He went to U.S. figure skating officials 20 years ago with allegations of abuse that he said happened in the mid-70s when he was just 13 years old. The governing body would not hear the evidence.
"Their requirements then -- if you do not report within 60 days of the abuse, we don't even consider it," Schmidt said.
Maurizi was removed as assistant coach, which sent a clear message to the children under Callaghan's rule.
"We were basically told he had done something awful and done something very horrible against Mr. Callaghan," Schmidt said. "I better not do anything against Mr. Callaghan in any way because that could potentially happen to me."
U.S. Figure Skating now requires mandatory reporting for all its members of any suspected child abuse. But the culture of abuse rings familiar with tragic similarities to the hundreds of young gymnasts who were abused by Larry Nassar.
"Unfortunately, yes, it is the same story. Everybody knew everybody brushed it under the carpet," Schmidt said.
Callaghan's attorney issued statements to NBC News and other organizations saying, "Mr. Callaghan denies any wrongdoing at any time. It's a sad day for U.S. Olympic sports. A true giant in U.S. figure skating is subject to a lifetime ban without due process."
U.S. Figure Skating issued a statement saying it "supports all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and encourages anyone who has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to immediately report it to local law enforcement, the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating."
Schmidt said he's glad Callaghan is banned from the sport but hopes the walls of silence in the skating world will come crashing down
"We need to move past Mr. Callaghan, and we need to move into the corrupt organization of U.S. Figure Skating who allowed this culture of abuse to go, as I said previously, unchecked for too long."