French skating chief puts presidency on the line over sex abuse scandal

Paris (AFP) –


The under-fire president of France's ice skating federation has called a meeting on Saturday at which he could be unseated over claims of rape against a former national coach, several sources said Friday.

Long-time federation head Didier Gailhaguet has so far rebuffed calls from France's sports minister to resign over the accusations against coach Gilles Beyer.

In an autobiography published last week, former world championship bronze medallist Sarah Abitbol accused Beyer of raping her several times from 1990 to 1992 when she was between the ages of 15 and 17.

Another skater, Helene Godard, accused Beyer and another coach Jean-Roland Racle of sexual abuse when she was a minor.

The meeting of the federation's federal council in Paris has to first agree to vote on Gailhaguet's future and then, if the vote goes ahead, two-thirds of the participants must agree to remove him from power.

Gailhaguet, 66, has refused calls from Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu to resign, telling a news conference on Wednesday that he had "absolutely not protected Gilles Beyer".

"I found out about 90 percent of these incidents in the press and in a book... 10 days ago," he said.

"This is an exceptional meeting of the federal council which was called by Didier Gailhaguet," the federation's lawyer Guy Paris told AFP.

"It's a chance to find out how things stand after the attempts by the sports minister to fire him."

Gailhaguet has been the most influential figure in French ice skating since he became president in 1998, some years after the alleged offences.