SUGARLAND, Texas (Nexstar) — Jean Lopez, a Sugar Land, Texas-based taekwondo coach under investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct, is no longer banned from the sport.
Lopez’s status on the U.S. Center for SafeSport was previously listed as “permanently ineligible” as of April. However, it’s now listed as “interim measure – restriction.” The taekwondo coach, who coached the U.S. Olympic taekwondo team from 2004 to 2016, has been accused of years of sexual misconduct and is still suspended from U.S.A Taekwondo.
Mandy Meloon, a former national champion and athlete who trained under Lopez, said Saturday she’s disappointed and confused about the change on SafeSport’s database and what that would mean for Lopez’s future in coaching. Meloon and several other female athletes have filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Taekwondo, accusing the organizations of sex trafficking. The lawsuit also accuses Lopez of sexual misconduct.
It also names Steven Lopez, who is also facing disciplinary action under SafeSport. In May, SafeSport placed him under “interim measure-suspension” for allegations of misconduct.
When Lopez was declared banned from taekwondo, Meloon said she had waited for years for this moment. She said Lopez’ misconduct started when she was 13 years old when she was attending a camp he coached at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Meloon recalls when she tried to file a report a few years later, she was turned away.
“In 2006, I was in Colorado Springs and I walked into the office of the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Taekwondo with a handwritten complaint and gave it to them and told them I wanted to file a police report,” she said. “They told me it was too late.”
Steve Estey, one of the attorneys representing Meloon and other athletes in the federal lawsuit, said the ban was likely overturned since he wouldn’t allow his clients to testify and be subject to cross-examination as part of Lopez’ appeal.
Since the women were already going to have to testify as part of their lawsuit, Estey said he didn’t want to subject them to the process multiple times.
“You don’t want them to experience more trauma by undergoing multiple cross-examinations,” he said over the phone Saturday evening.
Estey said he and the other attorneys were never notified about Lopez’ status changing.
“It sets a dangerous, dangerous precedent,” he said.
Lopez’ attorney, Howard Jacobs, told the Houston Chronicle the restriction prevents Lopez from contacting Meloon and his other accusers.
Back in April, Patrick Sandusky, a spokesperson for USOC, issued a statement in support of Lopez’ ban and cited the importance of SafeSport’s purpose to provide a safe and independent path for reporting violations involving sexual misconduct.
“Following the increased media coverage of Larry Nassar’s crimes, the Center has received substantially more inquiries, which is why we recently doubled funding to support its important mission,” Sandusky said.
“Additionally, federal government funding has also recently been approved and we are grateful for the Congressional support of this critically important entity and mission.”
When asked about why Lopez’ status changed, SafeSport said it could not comment on specific matters.
“We do this to protect the integrity of the process and the confidentiality of the individuals involved, including reporting parties. It’s in accordance with best practices for victim-centered response and professionalism in investigations,” a spokesperson for the Center said in an emailed statement.