Over 300 French sports coaches, teachers and officials accused of sexual abuse or cover-ups in 2023

PARIS (AP) — More than 300 French coaches, teachers and sports officials have been accused of sexual abuse or of covering up such wrongdoing in 2023, the country's sports minister said Thursday.

France launched a nationwide effort to uncover and combat sexual violence in sports four years ago when 10-time French skating champion Sarah Abitbol said in a book that she was raped as a teen athlete by her coach.

Since 2020, complaints have been filed against 1,284 coaches, teachers and sports officials. Of those, 186 faced criminal proceedings and 624 have been sanctioned with temporary or permanent bans.

Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra presented the latest annual report on the nationwide investigation at a news conference Thursday in Paris. She said most of the victims, or 81%, were women and girls. Most of those accused, or 90%, were men.

The alleged abuse included sexual assault, harassment or other violence. The abuse reached across the country and across the whole sector, with accusations targeting a total of 45 sports federations, she said.

In 2023, complaints were filed against 377 people. Among those suspected of abuse or its cover-up, 293 were coaches and teachers and 15 were sports officials, the minister said. The rest held minor or voluntary administrative positions.

Thirty-six have faced criminal proceedings, 176 have been temporarily or permanently removed from their posts, and local investigations are under way into other cases.

Abitbol said in her book that she was raped by coach Gilles Beyer from 1990-92, when she was a teen. Beyer was handed preliminary charges of sexual assault and the investigation is ongoing.