From Triumph to Tragedy
As a country, we have a sense of pride about the Olympics. They only come around every two years, alternating between winter and summer. The Olympics are a show of unity, it’s where countries go to prove their strengths to the world. Often, gold medalists are treated like heroes. Unfortunately for a world champion taekwondo participant and his coach, the end is near as they freefall from the top of their profession to the seat of a chair in front of a judge as they await a ruling that may change their lives forever.
Steven Lopez is a world champion and Olympic medalist in taekwondo. His brother, Jean Lopez, has been there every step of the way as not only as a member of his family, but his coach. The two brothers have risen to the top of the taekwondo ranks together and it seems like they will be taking the fall together as well. The Lopez brothers are each being sued for sexual assault and negligence. The federal lawsuits come after a storm of allegations and convictions against U.S. gymnastics coach Larry Nassar. The lawsuit was filed against the two brothers by two different women. Steven Lopez is being sued by Amber Means Randall and his brother Jean is being sued by Heidi Gilbert. The lawsuit has been filed in Colorado, where the U.S. Olympic Training Center is located.
This is not the first time an incident concerning brothers and various young ladies has been reported. In June of last year, USA Today Sports reported that four women had accused the brothers of sexual misconduct. Jean was accused of sexual misconduct by Gilbert and a woman who does not want to be identified. One of the four women, Many Meloon, came out and said that both Lopez brothers had sexually assaulted her. The fourth woman is Means Randall, who accused Steven Lopez of drugging and assaulting her.
In an interview with USA Today, Gilbert stated that she had gone out with the brothers after a tournament in Germany in 2003. Jean gave her a drink. After she finished the drink, she began to feel more woozy than normal. Jean offered to take her back to the hotel and began to molest her as soon as they got in the cab.
Means Randall stepped forward last June and told USA Today that Steven drugged her on a number of different occasions. She also stated that on one of the occasions, Steven sexually assaulted her while she was asleep.
Since the accusations surfaced, penalties have been handed out. On April 4th, the U.S. Center for SafeSport declared Jean Lopez was “permanently ineligible”. Restrictions have been put on Steven Lopez, but it is unclear whether he will be allowed to compete in the near future. Steven recently made his way onto his 24th national team.
What’s Yosi’s Take?
This is a very disturbing story that we are unfortunately seeing more and more of in the entertainment and sports industries. It appears that the victims have an extremely strong case against the brothers. For starters, the U.S. Center for SafeSport already declared Jean Lopez permanently ineligible for committing violations of sexual misconduct involving a minor. So it appears that Jean already established a behavior for such criminal acts.
Moreover, there are at least 4 women that are accusing the brothers of sexual misconduct. This is a very troubling fact for the brothers that will not bode well for them. Multiple victims with similar accusations build a stronger case against the brothers.
Legally, the victims will have to prove that the brothers owed them a duty of care which will be easy. As their coaches, Jean and Steven absolutely owed a duty of care to each of the teammates that they trained with or coached. They will then need to show that the brothers were negligent and that this duty of care was breached.
Just on its surface, I believe the victims have a very strong case against the brothers. If I was their attorney, I would strongly advise that they do not take these cases to trial and settle outside of court. Taking these cases to trial can end up being a disaster for the brothers, both financially and in terms of their public relations.