Olympic medalist Aja Evans accuses US bobsled team doctor of sexual misconduct in lawsuit – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Aja Evans, a bronze medallist in the bobsled event at the 2014 Winter Olympics, has filed a complaint alleging that a physician on Team USA’s medical staff sexually assaulted and harassed her for almost ten years while she was receiving treatment.
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation were named as defendants in the case filed on Wednesday in a state court in upstate New York. The doctor, Jonathan Wilhelm, a chiropractor who resides in Montana, was also named as a defendant.
Evans, 35, claimed in a news statement on Thursday that Wilhelm’s “repeated molestation and sexual assault” caused her to become “physically and emotionally damaged, to the point where I experience chronic anxiety and fell out of love with the sport of bobsledding.”
In the case, it was claimed that Wilhelm’s treatment “mirrors the abuse perpetuated” by Larry Nassar, a former doctor for the USA Gymnastics team who is currently facing a potential 175-year prison sentence after being found guilty in 2018 of sexually abusing female gymnasts.
Ryan Stevens, a lawyer for Wilhelm, said his client “wholeheartedly denies the detestable claims against him,” and called comparing Wilhelm to Nassar “disgraceful and defamatory.”
The USOPC said it had not reviewed the complaint, but “remains committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes,” including by eliminating abuse.
USA Bobsled said in an email that it could not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but condemns sexual misconduct and remains committed to promoting a safe environment for all athletes, coaches, staff and volunteers.
According to Evans’ attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel, her client suffered “abhorrent and persistent sexual and emotional abuse” at the hands Wilhelm, whom she said was sheltered and enabled by USA Bobsledding and the USOPC’s “culture of silence.”
“Unfortunately, her experience is all too common and is in many ways similar to the widespread sexual abuse USA gymnasts faced by Larry Nassar,” Simpson Tuegel said.
“While nothing can erase the trauma Aja suffered, we are committed to bringing both Mr. Wilhelm and the national organizations which enabled his predation to justice.”
The lawsuit said Wilhelm began treating Evans in 2012, and that during the treatment he “touched and groped Ms. Evans’ genitals and body in contravention of any applicable medical standards.”
Evans claimed that athletes were aware of Wilhelm’s propensity to “go for the adductor,” a group of muscles on the inside thighs, notwithstanding any problems they might have.
She also claims that Wilhelm was accused of filming and taking pictures of Evans and others at the USOPC training center in Lake Placid, New York, during therapy sessions and before competitions while they were in various degrees of undress.
According to the lawsuit, Wilhelm’s frequent non-consensual photography was reported to USA Bobsled by Evans and another member of her squad in 2017. However, the USOPC and USA Bobsled rejected the complaint and did not launch any sort of inquiry.
“Rather than being protected, believed, and taken seriously, Ms. Evans was subjected to investigation and degradation by the USOPC and USA Bobsled governing bodies,” the lawsuit said.
The case asks for punitive damages as well as undisclosed amounts in compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other losses.
At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Evans took home a bronze medal in the two-woman bobsled.
Evans failed to provide a sample during an out-of-competition drug test in March of 2022, which resulted in a two-year suspension from bobsledding.
(With Reuters inputs)

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