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No action to be taken against James skating partner

The French Ice Skating Federation have opted not to pursue action into an allegation of sexual abuse by French Olympic pairs skater Morgan Ciprès — skating partner of Bermudian Vanessa James.

The five-person disciplinary committee met last week to decide what, if any, disciplinary action would be taken against Ciprès.

He is still under two separate investigations by The United Centre of SafeSport and Pasco County Sheriff's Office in Florida for allegedly direct-messaging two photographs of his genitalia on Instagram to a 13-year-old American female figure skater, who practised at a rink in Wesley Chapel, Florida, where he was training in 2017.

However, following Wednesday's ruling, the French Ice Skating Federation's disciplinary committee said that it was not aware of any “complaint from the alleged victim nor any element that could lead to criminal proceedings.”

The committee added that there was “no objective element [photographs, messages, letters] that could establish proof of any offence.”

On Wednesday's ruling Cipres's lawyer Jean-Jacques Bertrand told AFP: “To date, Morgan Ciprès has never been summoned by the police or the courts in the United States, or by Safe Sport.”

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 obtained by USA Today, reportedly showed the alleged offence.

Police in Florida then reopened an investigation this month after the emergence of additional information.

“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.

Didier Gailhaguet, the former 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 won six bronze at the 2018 world championships, the 2018 Grand Prix Final and the 2019 European Championship.

Under scrutiny: Morgan Ciprés, the skating partner of Bermuda's Vanessa James, is still under investigation for allegedly direct-messaging lewd photographs to a 13-year-old girl (Photograph by Sergei Grits/AP)

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Published July 24, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 25, 2020 at 10:57 am)

No action to be taken against James skating partner

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