The dark side of sport

Lifting the lid on paedophilia in sport

part 1/5

This investigation looks at 77 cases of sexual violence in the world of sport in France which were either covered up or which could have been avoided. Numerous perpetrators involved in the cases remained in their jobs. The revelations here break a code of silence that has claimed 276 victims, most of who were minors at the time of events.

Lifting the lid on paedophilia in sport

part 1/5

This investigation looks at 77 cases of sexual violence in the world of sport in France which were either covered up or which could have been avoided. Numerous perpetrators involved in the cases remained in their jobs. The revelations here break a code of silence that has claimed 276 victims, most of who were minors at the time of events.

wednesday, December 11, 2019

This is a story of broken dreams, of young athletes who become imprisoned by silence, under the hold of a coach. They are traumatised children, who no longer dare run, swim or enter into combat. They number hundreds of victims, powerless in the face of the code of silence, the denial and the abandonment of the so-called embracing family that is the world of sport.

There are hundreds of cases in France of young female athletes who complain of being victims of sexual violence, walled in silence with their dreams of reaching the podium shattered, who can no longer run, swim or compete, and who find themselves powerless in face of the omertà, denial and ignorance of sports bodies.

Over a period of eight months, Disclose has investigated the issue of sexual violence in the world of French sport. This foray into the closed world of amateur and professional clubs reveals the ineptitude of a whole system to deal with the problem, from sports associations, federations and even the public authorities.

  • 77 cases
  • 28 sports
  • 276 victims

Beginning in the 1970s and up to the present day, Disclose can reveal 77 cases involving at least 276 victims, most of them aged under 15-years-old at the time of the events. The cases involve 28 different fields of sport, including football, gymnastics, athletics, as well as archery, roller-skating and chess.


Zoom out see French overseas territories

In the research behind the cartography published here, Disclose contacted hundreds of alleged victims of sexual violence in sports activities across France, and witnesses to the events they describe. They include accounts that are revealed here for the first time, and which were thoroughly counter-checked against legal papers, internal documents and press cuttings, all of which were compiled into a data base.

They unveil major failings by clubs and federations, local and national public authorities, and the justice system. These include the absence of a system of control of voluntary sports teachers, instances where suspected perpetrators who are under investigation were allowed to continue in their activities, the lack of monitoring of sexual delinquents, the inaction of officials and sports bodies that choose to cover up scandals rather than to defend the interests of the athletes in the field, flouting the laws in place.


Disclose chose to focus on those cases that illustrate one or more of the following elements: repeat offending, the continued activities of a convicted person as a sports instructor, the failure to alert the competent authorities after an alleged offence has been reported, efforts to defend the perpetrators, and negligence in situations where there are strong indications of wrongdoing.

The five failings of the system

Represented as a percentage of a total of 77 cases

  • 77
    Perpetrator remains in their post despite a conviction or judicial procedure
  • 47
    The perpetrator re-offends
  • 23
    Failure to alert the authorities
  • 23
    Taking up the defence of the perpetrator
  • 12
    Reports and warnings ignored
Repeat offending

One of the first of the alarming statistics to emerge from this investigation by Disclose calls into question the justice system’s monitoring of sexual delinquents. In the data compiled, almost one in every two cases of sexual crime in the context of sports activities involved repeat offending. The definition of repeat offending used here is that of a repetition of events of a sexual character, using the common description of this and not that employed in strict legal terminology (see more in the sidebar below “Background”).  These cases include both remunerated and voluntary sports instructors.

Concerning the latter, there is no legal or administrative requirement to check whether a person who applies to train or lead a sports club on a voluntary basis has a criminal record, nor to verify if their name features on the list compiled by the French justice authorities of people convicted of a violent or sexual crime (the FIJAISV).

Regarding cases of repeat offending involving salaried or otherwise remunerated self-employed instructors, these are often characterised by the failure to carry out a check of criminal records or the validity of the professional card of sports instructor – and even the striking off by the justice system of certain convictions on criminal records (see more in the accompanying report “The scourge of coaches who are repeat offenders”).

Kept in the job

Another alarming statistic is that in 78% of the sexual assault cases identified, either the alleged perpetrator was kept in their job despite an ongoing investigation, or a convicted perpetrator regained a post. It is a situation that increases the danger of a repeat offence. Yet under the law, according to Article 212-9 of the sport code – the laws and decrees that regulated sports activities – a person who has been convicted of an offence of a sexual nature cannot be allowed to train athletes or have a role of responsibility in a sports activity (see more in the accompanying report “Sexual abusers who remain in post”). It is legislation that sports managers are all too often little aware of.  

The failure to alert authorities

In 18 affairs, representing a quarter of the victim cases identified, individuals or institutions were informed of detailed events but failed to inform the justice authorities, despite being required to do so by law. In the majority of cases, those responsible for this code of silence were never called to account for having covered up offences of a sexual nature (see more in the accompanying report “The culpable silence of the authorities”).

Running away

  • Athlétisme
    De Saint-Brieuc à Angers
    Un entraîneur de lancer du javelot est condamné à Saint-Brieuc pour avoir agressé sexuellement trois jeunes filles d'un club d'athlétisme breton dans les années 1990. En 2010, des athlètes d'un club d'Angers l'accusent des même faits mais il est relaxé pour "doute".

  • Basket-ball
    De Douarnenez à Pontivy et Bouchemaine

    En 2019, des adolescents portent plainte pour agressions sexuelles contre Jean-Michel B., leur entraîneur de basket à Bouchemaine (Maine-et-Loire). L’éducateur sévissait depuis les années 1990, se déplaçant de département en département : de Douarnenez (Finistère) à Pontivy (Morbihan) jusqu’à Bouchemaine. En 2005, Jean-Michel B. avait déjà été condamné par le tribunal de Lorient pour agressions sexuelles sur mineurs.

  • Basket-ball
    D’Evreux à Rennes
    En 2019, un entraîneur de basket d’un club de la région rennaise est condamné à deux ans de prison pour agression sexuelle sur un mineur. L’éducateur avait déjà été condamné à Evreux en 2015 pour une autre agression sexuelle sur mineur et détention d’images pédopornographiques.

  • Boxe
    Déplacement dans la région Grand Est
    A la suite d’une agression sexuelle sur une jeune fille, un entraîneur de boxe est condamné en 2014 à trois ans de prison avec sursis et une interdiction d’exercer auprès de mineurs. Quelque temps après le jugement, il part exercer dans un autre club de la région Grand Est où il était toujours entraîneur à la fin de l’année 2019.

  • Equitation
    Des Ardennes à Gavray
    Un homme condamné pour viol sur mineur à quinze ans de prison par la Cour d’assises des Ardennes dans les années 1990, récidive une vingtaine d’années plus tard, dans une autre région. En 2018, il est condamné dans la Manche pour une agression sexuelle sur une adolescente alors qu’il était employé d’un centre équestre à Gavray. 

  • Equitation
    De la Belgique à la Nouvelle-Calédonie
    En 1997, Gilles Malaisse, un moniteur d’équitation est jugé en Belgique pour attentat à la pudeur sur trois fillettes âgées de 9 à 10 ans. On le retrouve vingt ans plus tard à la tête d’un centre équestre à l’autre bout du monde, à Païta en Nouvelle-Calédonie. Gilles Malaisse y agresse sexuellement deux fillettes. Faits pour lesquels il est condamné en appel, en 2019.

  • Football
    Moselle, Luxembourg, Oise et Meurthe-et-Moselle
    En 2012, Alain Jourdan, un pédophile multirécidiviste, est condamné à quinze ans de prison pour viol. Il avait déjà été condamné à de nombreuses reprises depuis le début des années 1980 pour des agressions sexuelles sur mineurs, déménageant après chaque agression. Moselle, Luxembourg, Pierrefonds (Oise), Attichy (Oise), jusqu’à Doncourt-lès-Conflans (Meurthe-et-Moselle), où il agressera sexuellement une dizaine d’enfants au début des années 2000.

  • Football
    De Montpellier à Thyez
    En 2016, Franck Deboissy, un entraîneur du club de football de Thyez (Haute-Savoie), est condamné pour agression sexuelle sur mineur. Franck Deboissy avait été condamné seize ans plus tôt à Montpellier pour les mêmes faits avant de déménager en Haute-Savoie.

  • Football
    De Dunkerque à Marcq-en-Barœul
    En 2016, Jean-François Van Reckem est condamné pour agression sexuelle sur mineur. Cet entraîneur de football de l’Olympique Marcq-en-Barœul (Nord) avait déjà été condamné en 2011 et 2012 alors qu’il entraînait des jeunes d’un club de Dunkerque (Nord). Il avait interdiction d’encadrer des enfants.

  • Football
    De l’Orne à Caen
    En 2015, un coach sportif résidant à Caen est condamné pour agression sexuelle sur un jeune majeur. L’homme qui s’était mis à son compte avait été exclu de plusieurs clubs de foot de l’Orne et du Calvados à cause d’avances trop insistantes.

  • Gymnastique
    D’Aix-en-Provence à Guise
    En 2008, Eric Harrison est condamné pour détention d’images pédopornographiques à Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône). Il quitte la région et part entraîner des gymnastes du club La Renaissance à Guise, dans l’Aisne. En 2015, Eric Harrison est condamné à deux ans de prison : il avait filmé des enfants dans les vestiaires du club et détenait des images pédopornographiques.

  • Karaté
    De Vaujours à la Sarthe
    En 2012, un entraîneur de karaté de Vaujours, en Seine-Saint-Denis, est condamné en première instance à trois ans de prison pour agression sexuelle sur mineur. Il encadrait toujours des stages de karaté dans l’ouest de la France (Sarthe) en 2019. Cette fois auprès d’adultes.

  • Tennis de table
    De Lyon à Brest
    Dans les années 1980 et 1990, Yves R. viole et agresse plusieurs mineurs d’un club de tennis de table lyonnais. Condamné en 2006 à deux ans de prison ferme, il quitte Lyon pour Brest (Finistère). Il y organise des tournois et arbitre des compétitions pour la Fédération française de tennis de table.

  • Tennis de table
    D’Arcachon à Andernos-les-Bains
    En 2010, Christian Petiteau est exclu d’un club de tennis de table d’Arcachon à la suite d’attouchements commis sur un jeune garçon. Neuf ans plus tard, l’octogénaire est condamné en première instance pour agression sexuelle sur mineur après avait trouvé refuge dans un club d’Andernos-les-Bains, à moins d’une heure de route d’Arcachon.

  • Roller
    D’Eaubonne à la Belgique
    Fin 2018, Arnaud Mercier est condamné à treize ans de prison pour de multiples viols sur mineures. Après une première plainte, l’entraîneur de l’équipe de France de roller artistique quitte le club d’Eaubonne, dans le Val-d’Oise, pour se rendre en Belgique.

  • Roller
    De Pornichet au Loroux-Bottereau
    Entraîneur de roller au club de Pornichet, en Loire-Atlantique, Sébastien B. est condamné pour des agressions sexuelles sur mineurs en 2010. Il parvient néanmoins à intégrer en tant que bénévole le club de roller du Loroux-Bottereau, à l’autre bout du département. Il récidive mais se suicide avant son second procès.

  • Plongée
    Lure, Dijon et Montbéliard
    Moniteur de plongée à Montbéliard, dans le Doubs, Fabrice Faivre est condamné en 2016 pour des agressions sexuelles sur un enfant de 10 ans. Il avait déjà fait l’objet de multiples condamnations pour agressions sexuelles ou détention d’images pédopornographiques dans d’autres départements : à Lure, en Haute-Saône et à Dijon, en Côte-d’Or.

  • Tir à l’arc
    De Paimpol à Pleubian
    Condamné en 2000 pour des agressions sexuelles sur mineurs par le tribunal de Guingamp, dans les Côtes-d’Armor, Roland F. devient entraîneur de tir à l’arc à Paimpol quelques années plus tard. En 2016, poussé vers la sortie en raison de son « comportement inadapté » avec deux jeunes filles, Roland F. part exercer à Saint-Agathon, à une trentaine de kilomètres de Paimpol. Il crée ensuite son propre club à Lanmodez, une commune voisine, puis à Pleubian. Roland F. récidive : il sera condamné à huit ans de prison en août 2019.

  • 01 / 18

In almost a quarter of affairs investigated here, there were 18 cases where perpetrators either moved to another club or another geographical region. In a system where the communication of information is easily interrupted, such movements offer a manner of passing ‘under the radar’. In the majority of the above cases, the movement was followed by repeat offending.  

Support for the perpetrator

In 18 affairs, the club, federation, local authorities or the school gave support to the perpetrator. In those cases, the complaints of the victims were often disregarded, and in some there were attempts to intimidate the victim. Convictions or other judicial sanctions were sometimes placed in question, and even described as judicial errors.

Neglecting serious warning signs of behaviour

Disclose has identified nine affairs in which behavioural warning signs – which did not always involve events that could be regarded as criminal – that preceded a sexual assault were dealt with lightly. Examples of behaviour such as a coach spending a night alone together with an athlete in their hotel room, or taking a shower, naked, among child players of a club should be reported to the authorities according to the recommendations of child protection professionals, including police services and associations.

There are numerous examples of those who failed their responsibilities, allowing sexual delinquents to slip through the net. In 53% of cases, the failings are on the part of the justice system. This raises a number of questions. How is it, for example, that someone convicted of sexual offences against minors is not systematically prohibited from subsequently exercising an activity with children? Why does social and judicial follow-up of cases sometimes only last for a few years? By what criteria is the decision made, and in some cases very rapidly, to strike off sexual offences from criminal records?

Where responsibilities lie 

By category and number of cases

  • 41
    The justice system
  • 27
    Clubs (management)
  • 13
    Federations (at national or local league and district levels)
  • 5
    Sports instructors
  • 3
    Local authorities and elected representatives
  • 4
    The state (the sports ministry, prefectures and education institutions)
  • 4
    Others (the entourage of a club, of the accused individual or of the victim)

Then comes the role of the clubs, which are at the origins of the mishandling of 35 percent of the cases investigated by Disclose. These reveal how information about sexual misconduct is not automatically passed on to sports federations, the police or the justice authorities, often in an attempt to protect the club from scandal. Furthermore, sports managers, whether occupying a voluntary position or a professional post, only rarely receive training on how to deal with sexual violence or to instruct them on the details of the law on the subject. The result is that they find themselves quite helpless when a case occurs in their midst.  

There are examples in which local town halls, schools and the employers of sports instructors were informed of events but subsequently failed to alert the authorities. Article 40 of the French criminal code requires elected representatives and public employees to inform the justice authorities when they have knowledge of a suspected crime. In two cases investigated by Disclose, it was the public administration services – the sports ministry and a local prefecture – which demonstrated culpable inertia. 

Finally, there are cases where the families of victims are reluctant to speak out. One of the reasons can be a notion of owing a certain loyalty towards a sports instructor. “In the Church, one talks of there being a moral hold [over people], but it’s the same in sport,” commented French Senator Marie Mercier, the rapporteur of a fact-finding commission of inquiry into sexual crimes against minors established by the parliamentary upper house in 2019.  

In comparison to media reporting in France of cases of paedophilia that have disgraced the Catholic Church, those of sexual violence in the world of sport have received very little coverage. Yet two French sportswomen who were victims of sexual violence notably sounded the alarm several years ago: one was the athlete Catherine Moyon de Baecque, in the early 1990s, and the other was tennis woman Isabelle Demongeot, in 2005. But their stand was largely in vain.

In 2008, the then French sports minister, Roselyne Bachelot, presented a plan to crack down on sexual violence and harassment in sport. That led, one year later, to the publication of the results of a nationwide inquiry into the issue which found that 17 percent of those athletes questioned said they were victims of, or believed themselves to have been subjected to, some form of sexual violence. Over the following ten years, successive sports ministers have produced statements and grand PR campaigns on the issue, but to little effect.

In November 2017, as the #MeeToo movement prompted by unfurling allegations of sexual assault against US film producer Harvey Weinstein gained full momentum, the then French sports minister, Laura Flessel, a former Olympic gold medallist in fencing, gave an interview in which she claimed that “there is no code of silence in sport” regarding sexual violence.

This investigation by Disclose demonstrates the contrary.

Daphné Gastaldi et Mathieu Martiniere


The reporters behind this investigation for Disclose, Daphné Gastaldi and Mathieu Martiniere, are members of a French collective of independent journalists called We Report. They co-authored a book investigating sexual crimes and ensuing cover-ups inside the Catholic Church, Eglise, la mécanique du silence, published in France by Lattès in 2017. They also reported on the same subject for a special edition (Pédophilie dans l’Eglise : le poids du silence) of French TV current affairs programme Cash Investigation, broadcast on the France 2 public channel in 2017.
Appeal for information

The scourge of coaches who are repeat offenders

part 2/5

In close to 50% of the cases revealed by Disclose, the perpetrators had already been convicted for offences of a sexual nature. This is because of failings in the judicial and administrative systems.


The scourge of coaches who are repeat offenders

part 2/5
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