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Former Olympic skater Ashley Wagner says disgraced skater John Coughlin sexually assaulted her

Former Olympian Ashley Wagner said she was sexually assaulted by another figure skater in 2008 when she was 17. The three-time national champion wrote in USA Today on Thursday that John Coughlin climbed into her bed after a party at a skating camp and began kissing and groping her.

Coughlin, who was 22 at the time, took his life in January at age 33. In an interview with the newspaper, Wagner said she was "absolutely paralyzed in fear."

"I pretended to be deep asleep, hoping he would stop," she wrote in a first-person account for the paper. "He didn't. When his hands started to wander, when he started touching me, groping my body, I tried to shift around so that he would think I was waking up and would stop. He didn't."

Wagner wrote she kept pretending she was asleep until she felt herself starting to cry. "I opened my eyes and pulled away from him as he kissed my neck," she said. "I grabbed his invading hand, and I told him to stop. And he did. He looked at me for a few seconds, quietly got up and left the room. All of this happened over the period of about five minutes. That is such a small amount of time, but it's haunted me ever since."

Wagner, now 28, won an Olympic team bronze medal in 2014 and is now retired from competitive skating. She said she feared speaking out earlier because she competes in a sport where judges determine success.

She told the paper two factors helped change her mind — the emergence of the #MeToo movement and Coughlin's coaching suspension in January by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an organization dedicated to protecting young athletes from abuse. In May, Coughlin's former pairs partner from 2004-07, Bridget Namiotka, posted on Facebook that Coughlin "sexually abused" her for two years.

Wagner said soon after that night in 2008 she told two people close to her about what happened. USA Today spoke to one of those, who confirmed her account but was not identified because of the "sensitivity of the topic."

Ashley Wagner competes in the ladies free skate competition during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on Jan. 5, 2018, in San Jose, California.
Ashley Wagner competes in the ladies free skate competition during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on Jan. 5, 2018, in San Jose, California. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Wagner said she spoke with officials at U.S. Figure Skating in February. In a USFS statement released to the newspaper, spokeswoman Barbara Reichert said:

"What happened to Ashley should not happen to anyone, period. Ashley is incredibly strong; not just to have the courage to come forward with her story, but to share her experience publicly to help others. Ashley recently spoke at U.S. Figure Skating athlete safety seminars and her experience and message of empowerment had a profound impact on skaters and their parents."

In an Instagram post Thursday, Wagner said she strongly felt people needed to talk more about sexual assault. "This happens all too often to both men and women, and we need to do better for our next generation," she said.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport and the figure skating federation had begun investigating allegations lodged against Coughlin late last year. They found enough evidence to warrant an interim suspension barring him from attending activities sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Coughlin had become a coach and TV commentator after retiring from skating. He maintained his innocence throughout the investigations.

Coughlin was found dead Jan. 18 at his father's home in Kansas City, Missouri.

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