Four former elite taekwondo athletes have filed a class-action lawsuit against USA Taekwondo stars Steven and Jean Lopez for sexual assault, reports NPR. The suit, which names the Lopez brothers, the US Olympic Committee, and USA Taekwondo, was brought by four women including Heidi Gilbert and Mandy Meloon, both world champions in the sport. Steven Lopez holds five World Championship titles and three Olympic medals; brother Jean coached Olympic athletes. The suit accuses the USOC and USA Taekwondo of exposing "hundreds of young female athletes to two adult predators" for two decades by knowingly allowing Jean Lopez to coach the athletes and allowing Steven Lopez to compete. "The USOC knowingly trafficked these girls to obtain medals and money, time and again," says one of the women’s attorneys, per USA Today.
The Lopez brothers are also under investigation by US Center for SafeSport, which in April banned Jean Lopez for sexual misconduct, including sexual misconduct with a minor. He is appealing the decision. SafeSport has been investigating Steven Lopez for more than a year. The lawsuit is graphic: As reported on NPR, Gilbert alleges that Jean Lopez assaulted her in a hotel room in 2002 after she won a gold medal at the Pan American Games. Meloon details how Jean Lopez allegedly assaulted her in a hotel room in 1997 when she was 15. One former USA Taekwondo board member says that the organization had a financial incentive for turning a blind eye on earlier allegations. "We got more money than other NGBs [national governing bodies] because we brought back more medals," she tells NPR. (Read more taekwondo stories.)