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Investigation reopened into James skating partner

Police in Florida have reopened an investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse by French Olympic pairs skater Morgan Ciprès — skating partner of Bermudian Vanessa James.

Ciprès, first came under scrutiny late last year as The United States Centre for SafeSport opened an investigation against the 29-year-old after e-mails from the family of a 13-year-old American female figure skater, obtained by USA Today, allegedly showed he had direct-messaged two photographs of his genitalia on Instagram to the girl, who practised at a rink in Wesley Chapel, Florida, where he was training in 2017.

“I can confirm the case has been reopened due to new or additional information,” Amanda Hunter, spokesperson for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office told USA Today. “This is now an ongoing, active investigation.”

Andrea Lewis, the attorney for the skater and her family, also confirmed that the girl is “fully co-operating with the investigation”.

At the time of the original investigation it is alleged that figure skating coach Vinny Dispenza told the victim and another underage girl to request the images from Ciprès in exchange for the promise of a pizza.

It is also alleged that Ciprès's coaches, John Zimmerman, a 2002 Olympian and member of the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame, and Silvia Fontana, a 2002 and 2006 Olympian representing Italy, intervened in an attempt to prevent the girl's family from coming forward, as Ciprès, who then was 26, prepared for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The three coaches allegedly engaged in a cover-up in 2018, as Ciprès and James were in the final stages of their preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where they finished fifth.

Meanwhile, a five-person disciplinary committee of the French Federation of Ice Sports are scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide what, if any, disciplinary action will be taken against Ciprès, according to reports in French newspaper L'Équipe.

Nathalie Péchalat, president of the French Federation of Ice Sports, confirmed the committee has three months to make a ruling, but stated it will make its decision by “the end of July”, while refusing to allude to the scale of any possible penalties Ciprès could incur.

Didier Gailhaguet, the former longtime president of the French Federation of Ice Sports, who dismissed the allegation of sexual abuse against Ciprès in December, said on February 5 at a news conference in Paris that Ciprès “did something very stupid”.

He added: “The stupid thing is a photo of himself and his private parts. He made a major mistake ... a shameful act of stupidity.”

Gailhaguet was asked to resign by France's sports minister over the federation's handling of a separate sexual abuse allegations against a coach. He later resigned on February 8, stating at the time that Ciprès had also resigned from the French sports federation's council and was being treated by a psychologist.

Ciprès and James have won six French national titles, bronze at the 2018 world championships, the 2018 Grand Prix Final and the 2019 European Championship.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, of France, perform in the pairs free skating at the ISU European figure skating championships in Minsk, Belarus, last year (Photograph by Sergei Grits/AP)

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Published July 13, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 13, 2020 at 12:05 am)

Investigation reopened into James skating partner

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