CNN

Paralympic gold medalist swimmer Robert Griswold “was maliciously targeted,” groomed and sexually abused a younger, intellectually disabled teammate, according to a civil lawsuit filed Friday in Colorado.

He allegedly abused Parker Egbert, now 19, who has suffered from developmental delay and intellectual disability throughout his life, making him “significantly more vulnerable to abuse”, during the Tokyo Paralympics and at the US Olympic & Paralympic Training Center (OPTC) located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“This case is a horrific tragedy, where a young man who defied the odds to become a world-class Paralympic swimmer had his life completely shattered by rape and abuse when he was paired with a member of the team that was a violent sexual predator,” the lawsuit said.

Directly as a result of Griswold’s “vicious acts” and the “repeated failures of the USOPC (the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee) and SafeSport to perform their duties”, the lawsuit states that Egbert “suffered severe physical injuries, pain and suffering, and extreme mental disorders. and emotional distress, most of which is likely to last for the rest of his life.

Griswold had not responded to CNN’s request for comment at the time of publication.

Contacted by CNN, Egbert’s attorneys said they would speak with their client before making a statement.

The lawsuit also alleges that the USOPC and SafeSport — an independent, nonprofit organization committed to ending abuse and harassment against athletes — failed to “warn, supervise, and/or protect plaintiff,” intentionally omitting or by negligence to respect their respective duties.

“The allegations made in the complaint filed today are extremely concerning and we take them very seriously,” the USOPC said in a statement to CNN.

“We have made the decision to place two staff members on administrative leave and have also halted the work of several contractors with US Paralympics Swimming. We are also continuing to investigate the allegations to help us determine the facts, and we are committed to taking appropriate action. »

SafeSport and USA Swimming did not respond to CNN’s request for comment at the time of publication.

Griswold was temporarily suspended by the US Center for SafeSport on August 23, 2022 due to “allegations of misconduct” and placed on a database designed for abuse prevention and education in sports.

The Colorado Springs Police Department had not responded to CNN’s request for comment at the time of publication.

Egbert was born with autism, did not speak until age six, and “currently has the mental capacity of a five-year-old,” the lawsuit states.

Swimming became a form of “recreation, therapy time,” his mother says in the lawsuit, and he found success in the pool, competing in three different events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games held in August and September 2021.

According to the lawsuit, during the June 2021 Paralympic Trials, Griswold “made a concerted effort to ‘befriend each other’ [Egbert]constantly referring to [Egbert] as her “boyfriend”.

During the Games, Griswold ensured that Egbert was always “seated next to him on plane and bus journeys and had extended unsupervised access” since they shared a room in the Olympic Village, and “the grooming escalated,” the lawsuit states.

“The USOPC observed Griswold engage in this conduct and permitted him to continue,” the lawsuit adds.

Griswold, who was born with cerebral palsy, won two gold medals at Tokyo 2020.

Another athlete, who was not identified in the lawsuit, allegedly witnessed the abuse suffered by Egbert de Griswold, according to the lawsuit, and he became so angry that he punched the wall of the room where the three athletes were staying.

In December of that year, Egbert won three gold medals at the U.S. National Paralympic Swimming Championships and was invited to live and train at the OPTC in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Egbert and Griswold became roommates there, allowing the abuse to continue and escalate, according to the lawsuit.

Egbert “refused to take showers where Griswold would rape and sexually abuse him,” according to the lawsuit, and he began writing stories as a means of escape, including one he titled “Spookley and the Hurricane “.

The story, according to the lawsuit, was about a group of friends who were “brave” in beating “a mighty hurricane called Hurricane Robert”, which Egbert called a “monster”.

After his parents questioned Egbert about the story, he revealed Griswold’s abuse to them, but when they raised concerns, “the USOPC declined to answer the question,” the lawsuit states.

Due to the “acts and omissions” of Griswold, USOPC and SafeSport, according to the lawsuit, Egbert “had to make the difficult decision to leave behind his lifelong dream” of being a Paralympic swimmer.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that “Griswold used his status in the Olympic and Paralympic swimming community to commit a systematic pattern of abuse, whereby he sought out and groomed vulnerable athletes, particularly underage and disabled Paralympic athletes living and training in the United States Olympic and Paralympic Training Center located in Colorado.”

The USOPC and SafeSport knew of “credible allegations” of abuse against Griswold, according to the lawsuit, “but conspired to cover up those allegations” due to his success as a Paralympic swimmer.

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