The Dark Side of Sport - PhMuseum

The Dark Side of Sport

Martina Cirese

2019 - Ongoing

France

This is a story of broken dreams, of young athletes who become imprisoned by silence. They are traumatised children, who no longer dare to run, swim or enter into combat. Over a period of eight months, the NGO Disclose has investigated the issue of sexual violence in the world of French sport.

My assignment was to photograph the most emblematic victims and their families across France: a swimmer of 21 years old, two archers and a triathlete of 10 and 15 years old; a former ping-pong player in his forties. I asked them to share with me their stories and to pose for a series of portraits in their apartments, during their trainings or where the assaults occurred. The challenge was to hide their faces to protect their identity, while showing at the same time their resilience: they all seek justice, fight to be heard, as if they want to leave the shadow and step into the light.

The investigation looks at 77 cases of sexual violence in France which were either covered up or which could have been avoided. Numerous perpetrators remained in their jobs. The revelations involve 276 victims, most of whom were minors at the time of events. Beginning in the 1970s and up to the present day, the cases involve 28 different sports, including football, gymnastics, athletics, archery, roller-skating and chess. In around 50% of the cases, the perpetrators had already been convicted for offences of a sexual nature. There are numerous men who have been investigated by the judicial authorities on suspicion of committing sexual violence or who have been convicted of such acts, yet who have held on to roles in close contact with or supervising young sports players.

Disclose reveals major failings by clubs, federations, local and national public authorities and the justice system. These include the lack of monitoring of sexual offenders and the inaction of officials and sports bodies. The extent of sexual abuse and the recurrent nature of the problem calls for urgent preventive action.

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  • The last sports club in Pleubian (Côtes d’Armor) where the former coach Roland F., 72, taught archery. His story illustrates perfectly the administrative and judicial failings that allow repeat offending to occur.

    According to the Disclose investigation, the trainer had already been convicted in 2000 for sexual assaults on minors in his own family. In 2007, Roland F. joined the archery club at Paimpol (Côtes-d’Armor) without anyone checking on his criminal record. He established himself as a respected club member until he was forced out in 2016. Then, Roland F. created his club in Pleubian where he committed sexual violences again. On August 19th 2019 he was given an eight-year jail sentence for sexual assault on minors. This time the courts banned him definitively from ever working with children again. Pleubian, France, 6/11/19.

  • The father of a sexual violence victim is seen in his apartment in Lorient. His daughter is a 15 years old Breton triathlete who claims to have been raped by her coach in his car in January 2018. After almost a year, the alleged victim spoke out with her parents. They immediately filled a complaint and reported the fact to the club. Her alleged harasser has not been taken in by the police yet. He keeps his triathlete license and still works as a coach in Brittany. Contacted by Disclose, he disputes the facts and remains presumed innocent at this stage of the procedure.

    «When she told us what happened, I had a terrible night. The next morning I called the police to lodge a complaint and I reported the fact to the president of the club (…) we were waiting for psychological and juridical support. Nothing happened».

    The father of the triathlete must remain anonymous. I asked him to pose in his living room, hiding his face behind the shadows. Lorient, France, 5/11/2019.

  • A tennis court is seen in a sports club in France. The location can not be revealed in order to preserve its anonymity. The photo is a symbolic representation of a french sports playground not directly connected to the specific events described in the investigation.

    Over a period of eight months, Disclose has investigated the issue of sexual violence in the world of French sport. This foray into the closed world of amateur and professional clubs reveals the ineptitude of a whole system to deal with the problem, from sports associations, federations and even the public authorities. France, 21/11/2019.

  • A sexual assault victim, 10, is seen during her archery training in Pleubian, Côtes d'Armor. Her former coach (Roland F., 72) has molested her along with her sister – an archery athlete aged 11 – touching their buttocks and putting his hands in their pants. The night it happened, he had received permission from the girls' parents to host them at his home in Lanmodez. After the denunciation of their mother Solène Guyomard, on the 2nd of April 2019 he has been accused of sexual violence against minors.

    I asked the victim to pose in the new club where she moved after the assaults. Her face is hidden to protect her identity. Pleubian, France, 6/11/19.

  • The last sports club in Pleubian (Côtes d'armor) where the recidivist sexual offender Roland F. – accused of sexual violences over minors on April 2nd, 2019 – taught archery.

    There are hundreds of cases in France of young female athletes who complain of being victims of sexual violence, who find themselves powerless in face of the omertà, denial and ignorance of sports bodies.

    One of the first of the alarming statistics to emerge from the investigation by Disclose calls into question the justice system’s monitoring of sexual delinquents. In the data compiled, almost one in every two cases of sexual crime in the context of sports activities involved repeat offending. These cases include both remunerated and voluntary sports instructors. Pleubian, France, 6/11/2019.

  • A Breton triathlete, 15, in her apartment in Lorient. She accuses her former coach of raping her in his car during a competition in January 2018. After almost a year, she filed a complaint in a police station in Lorient. Then she advised the club leaders and the triathlon league. Her alleged harasser has not been taken by the police yet. He keeps his triathlete license and still works as a coach in Brittany. Contacted by Disclose, he disputes the facts and is presumed innocent.

    «I entered the back of the car very casually – I must have felt stuck, with no escape. But once inside, there, I have never said so many times the word "no". I think it was pretty expressive everything I did in such a short time and space. Then we went home and he dropped me off at my parents' place, as if we had gone to training ”.

    The triathlete, still a minor nowadays, posed in her bedroom hiding her face behind a curtain (French law forbids that we reveal her identity). Lorient, France, 5/11/2019.

  • Archery training in the new gym in Pleubian (Côtes d'Armor) where the sexual assault victims moved to after the harassment by their former coach Roland F.

    An alarming statistic revealed by the Disclose investigation is that in 78% of the sexual assault cases identified, either the alleged perpetrator was kept in their job despite an ongoing investigation, or a convicted perpetrator regained a post. It is a situation that increases the danger of a repeat offence.

    Yet under the law, according to Article 212-9 of the sport code – the laws and decrees that regulated sports activities – a person who has been convicted of an offence of a sexual nature cannot be allowed to train athletes or have a role of responsibility in a sports activity. It is legislation that sports managers seem all too often little aware of. Pleubian, France, 6/11/2019.

  • In 2017 a French swimmer champion aged 21 reported to the police that when she was aged 14 she had been the victim of inappropriate behaviour by her swimming instructor Mathieu D. The judicial investigation is ongoing, and by law he is given the presumption of innocence. This is her new training pool, far from her former one in Clamart. The location of the pool and the identity of the subject must remain anonymous. France, 22/11/2019.

  • A French swimming champion, 21, is seen during her training. The location of the pool and the identity of the subject must remain anonymous.

    In 2017 the French swimmer reported to the police that when she was aged 14 she had been the victim of inappropriate behaviour by her swimming instructor Mathieu D. «He asked me to take off my underwear» – she, now aged 21 and a student in the south-east city of Lyon, told Disclose – «He massaged me at the spot of the adductor and the groin. His hand went very far, right up to my private parts, even if it only lasted a few seconds».

    According to information received by Disclose, police found photos of the buttocks of female adolescents on Mathieu D’s computer. The judicial investigation is ongoing, and by law he is given the presumption of innocence. Disclose was unable to contact him.

    She has taken up swimming lessons again, but in a pool far from Clamart, where I asked her to pose in the dressing rooms hiding her face. France, 22/11/2019.

  • Amelie and her mother Muriel Le Gallou at the Pleubian archery club (Côtes d'Armor). According to them, the former archery coach Roland F., convicted of sexual assault over minors, tried to assault Amelie too. «This is where he tried with Amélie. She shouted at him, she managed to get away from him» – Muriel recalls as she stands in the parking lot.

    On April 2nd 2019 Roland F. was arrested by gendarmes, accused of sexual assault on minors.
    During the investigation the gendarmes found child porn images on his computer hard drive. But they discovered something else, too. For when they examined criminal records, officers found out that the coach had already been convicted in 2000 and given a four-year jail term, two of which were suspended, for sexual assault on minors in his own family. Roland F. was a repeat child sex offender.

    I asked Amelie to hide her face behind her mother, posing in the sport club where she moved after the alleged assault. Pleubian, France, 6/11/19.

  • The Favre boarding school in Lyon – specialised in looking after youngsters from difficult family backgrounds – is seen from the outside. According to the investigation by Disclose, the former ping-pong coach Yves R., 53, committed here several sexual abuses over minors, while being the school supervisor. In 2006 the table tennis trainer was convicted of multiple rapes and given a five-year jail term, with three of those suspended. When he came out of prison, Yves R. went to Brest where he found a position as a manager at the TTC Brest Recouvrance table tennis club where many children train. Thus, despite his criminal record as a paedophile, Yves R. has for nearly ten years continued to work in contact with young people. In response to Disclose's questions, the federation decided to act on December 7 and 8, 2019: «Yves R.'s license has been suspended as a precautionary measure. He can no longer participate in any competition» said the General Manager. Internat Favre, Lyon, 21/11/2019.

  • Two sisters, 10 and 11 years old, pose in their garden in Pleubian, Côtes d'Armor. Their former archery coach (Roland F., 72) has both molested them by touching their buttocks and putting their hands in their pants.

    «In the beginning, Roland was nice. Afterwards he started asking for kisses, cuddles. He insisted that we sleep at his place after competitions. He was very insistent» - said the younger sister to Disclose.

    After the denunciation of their mother Solène Guyomard, on April 2nd 2019 Roland F. was accused of sexual violence against minors. I asked the girls to pose holding their hands and hiding their faces. Pleubian, France, 6/11/2019.

  • Archery medals in the bedroom of the two sisters – both victims of sexual assaults by their former archery coach Roland F.

    «He had taken them under his wing and had quickly sent them to competitions» recalled Solène Guyomard, the girls' mother. «They started to return home with earrings, sweets, presents». For months Roland F. succeeded in getting the parents to drop their guard. That was until the day that the sisters told their parents that the archery coach had touched their bottoms, sliding his hands under their clothes. Solène Guyomard immediately made an official complaint.

    On April 2nd 2019 Roland F. was arrested by gendarmes, accused of sexual assault on minors. During questioning he was evasive. His hand might «inadvertently» have slipped into one of the children's trousers. Pleubian, France, 6/11/2019.

  • The gym Gymnase Maurice-Sceve in Lyon where in the late 80's the coach Yves R. – convicted in 2006 of several rapes over minors – taught ping-pong to the victim who sentenced him.

    The victim, today aged 43, spoke out as an adult, with a letter to his brother dated January 17th 2000, where he wrote: «Yves R., the so nice, supposed 'great coach' is in fact a paedophile and I was, from the age of 11 to 14, one of I think many victims». He reported the coach immediately afterwards.

    The investigation by Disclose has revealed that several dozen sports coaches, such as Yves R., stay still in post despite either having been convicted or facing an ongoing investigation. It shows how legal orders banning individuals from working with minors are being repeatedly flouted to a very large extent. Lyon, France, 21/11/2019.

  • A sexual violence victim, 43, is seen in front of the sport club Maurice-Scève in Lyon, where he met his former tennis-table coach Yves R., condemned in 2006 for sexual abuses over minors.

    He was a talented player qualified for national finals when the nightmare began. According to the Disclose investigation, he was subjected to inappropriate touching on about 150 occasions, with or without fellatio, and around 20 acts of anal sex, from the age of 11 to 14. The victim spoke out as an adult, with a letter to his brother dated January 17th 2000. He reported the coach immediately afterwards. After a six-year investigation, Yves R. was convicted of multiple rapes and given a five-year jail term, with three of those suspended.

    I have returned with the victim to the place where it all started. His identity must remain anonymous. Lyon, France, 22/11/2019.


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