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Former wrestlers claim coaches ignored harassment in showers

Former wrestlers claim coaches ignored harassment in showers

PALO ALTO — Within the midst of heightened consciousness over the sexual exploitation of school athletes, former Stanford wrestlers are alleging a college math lecturer harassed them for years by steadily displaying up in staff showers after follow to leer at them.

Stanford has launched a sexual-misconduct investigation of the lecturer, Hung Le, who has a 25-year affiliation with the workforce, together with almost a decade on the board of administrators of its youth program. He denies any untoward conduct.

However seven former wrestlers, talking out for the primary time, are claiming in strikingly comparable ways in which Le, 63, routinely ogled them once they have been bare in a locker room open to the Stanford group. A number of of them say a few of their coaches knew however did nothing to cease it — a rivalry these coaches dispute.

“I felt pretty exposed and pretty unprotected by the folks who were supposed to be” guarding athletes’ security, former wrestler Josh Brown stated in an interview. “Any given day where that happened would be the worst day.”

In interviews with this information group, Le referred to as all of it a misunderstanding, saying it was solely coincidental that he showered when the wrestlers did after he went operating. Le stated he additionally faces an accusation that he was seen touching himself whereas “spying” on wrestlers in the bathe, a cost he vehemently denied.

“I never had any improper behavior,” Le stated.

This screenshot exhibits the Linkedin web page of Stanford lecturer Hung Le. 

However the wrestlers stated it was greater than random probability that Le commonly showered with them. Brown and three different wrestlers recalled he can be ready in the locker room even when practices ran lengthy or ended early.

Matt Gentry, a two-time Canadian Olympian and 2004 NCAA champion for Stanford, referred to as Le a “running joke” amongst teammates, however stated he by no means felt harassed or threatened.

Nevertheless, Gentry made it clear: “The fact there was excessive staring in the shower did happen.”

Stanford started its investigation this summer time underneath Title IX, a federal regulation mandating universities act on abuse claims, after a number of former wrestlers made the allegations, which cowl a interval from 2002-2010. A college spokesman stated Thursday it could possibly be wrapping up its investigation as early as Friday.

These allegations surfaced when a former wrestler raised considerations with fellow alumni after studying of Le’s place with the Cardinal Wrestling Membership, this system’s youth group. There are not any allegations of wrongdoing towards Le involving the youth membership or Stanford’s present wrestling workforce. He resigned his place in June earlier than the fees have been leveled.

“We never want to see these kinds of allegations, but if and when they do happen we take them seriously, we investigate them thoroughly and we take appropriate action,” deputy athletic director Patrick Dunkley stated in an interview.

When first approached by this information group, Le initially denied being concerned with Stanford wrestling. However paperwork and interviews contradicted that claim. He ultimately acknowledged his lengthy affiliation with the workforce, befriending coaches, being listed as a “Friend of Stanford Wrestling” in media guides, making donations, internet hosting dinners, and serving on the youth group’s board to deal with its funds.

“I am shocked some of the wrestlers said they were uncomfortable,” Le stated. “No one ever said anything to me.”

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 2018: The empty wrestling apply facility at Stanford College. (Bay Space Information Group photograph) Bay Space Information Group

A number of the wrestlers, nevertheless, stated at one level they witnessed teammates confront Le — however it didn’t change his conduct.

This isn’t the primary time Stanford has acquired complaints about Le. In 2011, after a good friend of an unidentified wrestler complained to the college, an athletic division official cleared Le of misconduct however advised him to keep away from group showers and one-on-one encounters with wrestlers going ahead.

The newest costs have risen towards a backdrop of sexual abuse scandals at different big-time faculties resembling Ohio State, the place wrestlers allege comparable however extra lurid bathe conduct. In contrast to intercourse scandals at Penn State and Michigan State, Stanford wrestlers don’t allege bodily abuse.

However sexual abuse specialists stated what the wrestlers describe is a type of sexual harassment and stalking. “You don’t need to touch somebody to hurt them,” stated College of Wisconsin psychology professor Ryan McKinley, a member of the Society for the Psychological Research of Males and Masculinity. “There may not have been any contact but clearly people on the receiving end saw its impact.”

The wrestlers stated different males, none of whom they will determine, additionally typically confirmed up and stared at them in the best way Le did. However they keep in mind the 5-foot-2 Le as a result of they stated he was the person most ceaselessly taking showers once they did.

Drew Martinez, a Stanford wrestler from the early 2000s, stated the expertise nonetheless bothers him: “Even to this day I am wary in locker rooms, at least keeping my head on a swivel.”

A lot of the wrestlers acknowledge they by no means complained to coaches or college officers on the time of the encounters as a result of they have been embarrassed or simply went together with teammates who joked about it.

However a few of the wrestlers stated coaches have been current when the subject of Le’s conduct got here up at practices however informed them to bathe in teams and ignore Le. Martinez stated then-head coach Steve Buddie and his assistant Jay Jackson each knew about Le’s conduct, however each stated in interviews they have been unaware of what the previous athletes now describe.

“It breaks my heart this comes up now and I am hearing of this,” stated Buddie, who led the Cardinal from 2001-05. “I had zero reported to me or brought to my attention.”

Jackson, who additionally insisted he by no means heard complaints particularly about Le, had his personal harrowing purpose to warn wrestlers concerning the risks of males hanging across the staff. In 1996, he was sure, gagged and held at gunpoint in his condominium by a person who had befriended him on campus. He fought his approach free and the attacker was despatched to jail.

Jackson acknowledged that he gave the group a basic warning based mostly on his expertise — however not about Le.

“We told the wrestlers to watch themselves and be careful,” he stated.

Buddie’s alternative, Kerry McCoy, a two-time Olympian who left Stanford in 2008, didn’t return messages.

Present head coach Jason Borrelli, who’s run this system since 2008, stated that he believed Le “posed no threat” and that he was “completely comfortable” with wrestlers attending vacation dinners Le started internet hosting in 2010.

His affiliate head coach Ray Blake was a teammate to most of the wrestlers now making the accusations and wrestled with the Cardinal from 2001 to 2006 when most of the incidents allegedly occurred. Blake acknowledged that he knew Le, however advised this information group: “To my knowledge, nothing inappropriate ever happened and if it had, I would have reported it immediately.”

Stanford’s athletics division and the college’s Sexual Harassment Coverage workplace collectively investigated Le in 2011, Dunkley stated, after an unidentified individual made allegations on behalf of a wrestler. However Le described the method as casual and stated he was by no means interviewed by an investigator from the Sexual Harassment Coverage Workplace. As an alternative, he stated an athletic division official was the one one to talk with him concerning the accusations.

Earl Koberlein, then a senior affiliate athletic director informed Le in an e-mail — which Le offered to this information group — that he discovered no violations of Stanford’s Sexual Harassment Coverage however instructed him to maneuver his locker and “keep a good distance away from wrestling team members” once they showered and to not be alone with them.

Koberlein, now at Menlo Faculty, acknowledged chatting with Le however declined additional remark.

The previous wrestlers making allegations now stated they have been unaware of the athletics division’s earlier investigation into Le. And one main skilled discovered the dealing with of that probe troubling, questioning why Koberlein participated as an alternative of leaving it solely to the college’s unbiased Sexual Harassment Coverage Workplace.

Coincidentally, simply months after Koberlein cleared Le, the U.S. Division of Schooling cracked down on how universities dealt with campus sexual harassment and assault allegations, stated Los Angeles lawyer Brett Sokolow, a number one Title IX professional.

Earlier than the modifications, investigations typically occurred informally in the division the place they originated and “professors basically had immunity.” However even with out the modifications, a college of Stanford’s stature ought to have completed higher, he stated.

The athletics division involvement confirmed “a version of special treatment,” Sokolow stated. “It doesn’t sound like it was in line.”

When requested if it was applicable for the athletics division to deal with that investigation, Dunkley, who was not on the college on the time, stated the college’s sexual harassment workplace “obviously reached the conclusion” that it was correct for Koberlein to take part.

This time, the allegations are being dealt with by the campus Title IX workplace, which didn’t exist in 2011. Wrestlers who got here ahead stated they have been motivated to talk out now as a result of they just lately turned fathers and realized they might by no means need their youngsters to endure the identical humiliation.

“It had no business being this way,” stated Brown, who wrestled between 2002-06. “But it is one of my vivid associations of being an athlete at Stanford.”

Employees author Robert Salonga contributed to this report.