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US Speedskating Terminates Membership of Former Olympian Amid Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

birdie_farrell.jpg
Courtesy of BRIDIE FARRELL
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Bridie Farrell and Andy Gabel, top row second and third from left, at training in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1997.

The governing body for speedskating in the United States has stripped a former Olympic medalist of his lifetime membership in the organization.

Three years ago, speedskater Bridie Farrell alleged that Olympic silver medalist, and former US Speedskating president, Andy Gabel had improper sexual contact with her when he was 33 and Farrell was fifteen years old.

In 2013, Farrell told Lake Effect, "At 15 years old I was 119 pounds. I mean, I was a teeny thing. And it was just so skewed and so off and so disgusting, and such a violation of the authority and the power that he knew he had."

Following Farrell’s allegations, another skater – former Olympian Nikki Meyer – came forward and reported that she, too, had sexual contact with Gabel while she was still a minor.

Later, a WUWM investigation turned up evidence of more allegations against Gabel while he trained at the US Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University, though no charges were filed. At the time the Farrell and Meyer allegations surfaced, Gabel admitted to “an inappropriate relationship with a female teammate.”

That year, Gabel stepped down from his official position with the International Skating Union but maintained his relationship with US Speedskating, the governing body for the sport in this country.

WUWM has learned that status changed following a recent meeting of US Speedskating’s board. The organization issued a statement that reads, “Andy Gabel is no longer a member of US Speedskating. USS retained a firm to investigate claims related to alleged conduct of Mr. Gabel. Following the investigation, Mr. Gabel’s membership in USS was terminated and subsequently, he resigned from USS.”

Bridie Farrell had been training in Milwaukee in a bid to make the 2014 Olympic team. When that effort fell short, she returned to New York City. Reached in New York, Farrell reacted to the news.

"I’m very very happy that someone who has an element of power in US Speedskating decided to take leadership," she said.  "The statement doesn’t say exactly why he left, and I think personally acknowledging that what I said were true allegations and Andy confirmed them is important, as well. But it’s about time – there’s been a lot of lip service and so for someone to take action – it’s gratifying on my end."

Gabel’s membership with the organization had meant he was still eligible to coach or otherwise hold an official position in the sport. Farrell says that’s why she believes his removal from the group was so important.

"I’m not someone who believes that everything happens for a reason, or that some god out there picked me to have this to happen to, but this is the hand I was dealt," she said. "And my sole goal is just to make sports and school yards and everything safer for kids, and I think this is – albeit a small step, definitely a step in the right direction."

Gabel, who is a 1990 Marquette University graduate, remains in the US Speedskating Hall of Fame, though several groups have called for his removal. Gabel, who lives in Nevada, could not be reached through his attorney for comment.