U.S. Figure Skating Coach Gets Lifetime Ban After Investigation Finds Multiple Misconduct Violations

Dalilah Sappenfield, a former U.S. Figure Skating coach of the year, previously coached three-time national champions Alexa and Chris Knierim

<p>Matthew Stockman/Getty</p>

Matthew Stockman/Getty

Longtime U.S. Olympic pairs figure skating coach Dalilah Sappenfield has been banned from the sport for life after an investigation determined that she had committed multiple violations including emotional and physical misconduct, USA Today reported.

A former U.S. Figure Skating coach of the year, Sappenfield coached three-time national champions Alexa and Chris Knierim at the 2018 Winter Olympics and had been actively coaching despite being the subject of a 2 1/2-year-long investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

“Culture change is happening,” SafeSport CEO Ju’Riese Colon said in a statement to the newspaper.

Colon continued, “Actions that were once tolerated or ignored are no longer accepted, and accountability is taking root. That’s progress, but creating long-term culture change requires steadfast commitment by everyone in the sport community to fostering safe environments for athletes to fulfill their potential. Those who cling to toxic tactics will be left behind and on the wrong side of history.”

Related: Married American Figure Skaters Celebrate Season-Best Olympic Performance with a Kiss on the Ice

Among Sappenfield’s alleged violations include verbal abuse, which U.S. national pairs champion Tarah Kayne said led her to cut her wrist with a razor blade, per USA Today.

Kayne also told the publication in 2021 that she had reported to a SafesSport investigator that Sappenfield’s verbal abuse frequently included sexual comments.

Related: U.S. Figure Skater John Coughlin's Family Is 'Devastated' After His Apparent Suicide at 33

“She was constantly talking about sex, about who I was dating, about my sex life,” Kayne said at the time. “It was completely inappropriate, but that’s what Dalilah does. She uses gossip from other skaters in the rink against you. She knew I was struggling with my mental health, but instead of helping me, she chose to make fun of me. She even went to other skaters and told them about it, calling me names and asking the guys why anyone would want to date me.”

Sappenfield did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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The coach was a good friend and ardent defender of the late figure skater John Coughlin, who died by suicide in 2019, one day after SafeSport temporarily suspended him from the sport due to allegations of sexual abuse.

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