Relief at skating chief Gailhaguet's 'necessary' resignation

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French Ice Skating Federation (FFSG) president Didier Gailhaguet speaks to the media during a press conference in Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Gailhaguet faces media questioning after refusing to resign, despite being asked to by Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu after figure skater Sarah Abitbol and another skaters accused their former coach Gilles Beyer of rape when they were teenagers. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS – After the long-serving head of France's skating federation resigned Saturday, amid suspicions that he covered up for a coach accused of rape and sexual abuse by former figure skaters, one of the coach's accusers spoke of her relief.

Ten-time French champion Sarah Abitbol said she was raped by skating coach Gilles Beyer from 1990-1992, when she was a teen.

The skating federation's president Didier Gailhaguet, who denied protecting the coach and said he’s not at fault, faced mounting pressure to step down from France's current sports minister Roxana Maracineanu and others asking him to resign. He finally did so Saturday following a special meeting at the federation.

“Didier Gailhaguet's resignation was necessary, but it's only a first step,” Abitbol told French magazine L'Obs. “The whole of the federation where he has his friends must be cleaned up. Those who kept quiet, and supported the system (in place), are still there.”

Maracineanu also spoke of it as being a “first step” and says the government is “analyzing the dysfunctions which allowed serious doings to take place inside the federation.”

Gailhaguet has maintained he was never aware that Abitbol had been abused by Beyer.

He continued to blame a former sports minister, Marie-George Buffet, for allowing Beyer to continue working regularly in skating circles. He added that nobody at the federation was aware of alleged wrongdoing by Beyer.

Speaking in Paris after he had resigned, Gailhaguet said “out of the need for appeasement I have taken ... the wise decision to resign from my position as president of the federation." It was not immediately known who would replace him as FFSG president.