A lawsuit was filed in federal court on Friday alleging that a celebrated U.S. Paralympic swimmer routinely sexually assaulted a teammate who was mentally disabled both at the Tokyo Games and at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, where the two athletes shared a room.
Parker Egbert, a 19-year-old with autism who has experienced developmental delays throughout his life, was “maliciously targeted and groomed” by Robert Griswold, according to the 63-page complaint submitted to the U.S. District Court for Colorado.
Robert Griswold allegedly did this by taking advantage of his teammate’s intellectual disability, which “rendered him vulnerable and naive to abuse.”
A young guy who overcame all difficulties to become a world-class Paralympic swimmer had his life completely destroyed by rape and abuse when he was partnered with a teammate who was a violent sexual predator in this horrifying tragedy the complaint claims.
Griswold, a cerebral palsy swimmer who is 25 years old, did not reply to a request for comment sent on Friday and has not made any public comments regarding the allegations, which first appeared last month on the well-known swimming website SwimSwam.
Due to “allegations of misbehaviour,” he was given a temporary suspension by the US Center for SafeSport on August 23. He is not permitted to compete while the matter is pending.
In spite of prior allegations of misconduct and a prior temporary suspension in September 2020 that was later lifted before the Tokyo Paralympics,
the lawsuit accuses the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and SafeSport of negligence for failing to protect Egbert and for giving Griswold close access to the athlete.
The paralympian who is deaf and blind was instructed to travel alone in Tokyo. She then left Team USA.
A USOPC official stated in a statement that “the claims made by the complaint filed today are quite disturbing and we take them very seriously.”
“We’ve decided to put two employees on administrative leave and stop working with many contractors on the US Paralympic Swimming programme. In order to learn the truth about the claims, we’re also continuing our inquiry. We’re dedicated to acting appropriately.
U.S. Paralympic Swimming representatives did not reply to inquiries seeking comment on Friday. The director of the organisation, Erin Popovich, and the associate director, Nathan Manley, both received auto-replies stating that they are “currently away on leave.”
The five-year-old nonprofit organisation SafeSport, whose mission it is to investigate and stop sexual assault in Olympic sports organisations, did not respond to requests for comment.
Last month, a Colorado Springs Police Department official told The Washington Post that there was a “open and current investigation” into Griswold, but he would not provide any other information. No offences have been brought against Griswold.
Normally, The Post does not identify sexual assault victims, but Egbert did so in his Friday court filing. Egbert and his family declined to make any additional comments through an attorney.
As you might understand, the Egbert family, along with the other victims and families who have been impacted, have had an incredibly difficult time as a result of this trauma, so we ask that their privacy be respected,” stated lawyers Frank Salzano and Elizabeth Kramer in a statement.
Egbert “had the mental capacity of a five-year-old,” the lawsuit claims, and was born with autism. He did not talk until he was six years old. However, he impressed judges during the swimming portion of the U.S. Paralympic trials in June 2021, earning a spot in the Tokyo Games.
The complaint claims that at the trials, Griswold made friends with Egbert and started grooming him. Griswold was Egbert’s “de facto chaperone” by the time the national team arrived in Tokyo later that summer, the lawsuit claims.
He “was always seated next to him on plane and bus excursions, and was permitted extensive unsupervised access to [Egbert] as the two shared a room in the Olympic Village.” The USOPC “appointed Griswold to be a supervisor of” Egbert, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Griswold repeatedly mistreated Egbert and threatened him with “getting in trouble” and “the police coming” if he spoke out.
According to the petition, there was at least one witness to the abuse in Tokyo. The lawsuit claims that a third, unidentified roommate was so furious by what he witnessed that he struck a wall and was later disciplined by team officials for his reaction.
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The complaint claims that Griswold, a two-time Paralympian from Freehold, New Jersey, had gained influence in the U.S. Paralympic community after winning two gold medals and setting a world record in Tokyo.
According to the lawsuit, Griswold persuaded USOPC representatives to invite Egbert to reside and train at the American Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
The lawsuit claims that the assault continued when the two sportsmen were put up together as housemates.
“Griswold raped Plaintiff at least once in such a violent manner that Plaintiff lost control of his bowels. Plaintiff continues to experience severe rectal pain to this day, necessitating surgery and ongoing medical care, according to the complaint.
Egbert allegedly stopped taking showers and started creating stories “as a form of escape,” including the story “Spookley and the Hurricane,” about a group of pals who fought a strong monster named “Hurricane Robert,” according to the document.
When Egbert first brought up the allegations of abuse, his parents contacted USOPC representatives, according to the complaint, “but the USOPC failed to investigate the issue and summarily and dismissively told Plaintiff’s parents that Plaintiff was just fine, and that Griswold posed absolutely no risk to Plaintiff.”
According to the lawsuit, Griswold was shielded by the USOPC and SafeSport because she “was a premier swimmer” and her family “was deeply ingrained with leaders throughout the U.S. Paralympic swimming community.”
Although the complaint does not go into depth about Griswold’s prior suspension, it alleges that the USOPC and SafeSport disregarded warning signs and prior complaints before putting Egbert in a risky scenario with scant to no supervision.
The case claims that “Griswold’s physical, verbal, and sexual abuse occurred in substantial part due to the conduct and omissions of USOPC and SafeSport.”
The USOPC removed Griswold from the national team in August, and SafeSport also temporarily suspended him from the training facility. According to social media posts, Griswold wed his fiancée on a Florida beach one week earlier.
That week, Egbert’s parents took their kid home to Iowa by travelling to Colorado Springs. The adolescent swimmer “had to make the tough decision to leave behind his lifelong aspiration,” the complaint claims.
The lawsuit claims that even though “Egbert” has repeatedly thanked his parents “for protecting me from” Griswold since coming home, Egbert is frightened that Griswold “knows where they live” and “is going to kill him
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