Gilbert v. U.S. Olympic Comm., U.S. Taekwondo, Inc.

Decision Date06 March 2019
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 18-cv-00981-CMA-MEH
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Colorado


Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiffs assert twenty-one claims against the various Defendants. See Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 68 ("SAC"). Defendants United States Olympic Committee ("USOC"), USA Taekwondo, Inc. ("USAT"), and Jean and Steven Lopez (collectively, the "Lopez Defendants") have filed separate Motions to Dismiss seeking to dismiss the claims in their entirety. Additionally, the USOC moves under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f) to strike Plaintiffs' class action allegations.1 As set forth below, I respectfully recommend that all motions be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are female taekwondo athletes who sought to compete for Team USA. Plaintiffs allege that during the time they participated and competed in the USAT system, they were sexually abused, assaulted, and raped by the Lopez Defendants, who Plaintiffs claim are prominent members of the United States taekwondo community. Plaintiffs' allegations in this lawsuit constitute three components. First, Plaintiffs allege coerced sexual conduct and sexual assault perpetrated by the Lopez Defendants. Second, Plaintiffs allege the USOC and USAT ignored and discredited their reports of such conduct in the years following the assaults. Finally, Plaintiffs allege that executives of the USOC and USAT lied to Congress in an attempt to divert blame and prevent institutional reform. In the interests of judicial economy and efficiency, many allegations from the 200-page SAC are omitted or significantly condensed in the following background section. Where those facts become relevant to resolution of the present motions, I discuss them at the appropriate juncture. Plaintiffs factual allegations are taken as true for analysis under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

I. The Defendants

Defendant USOC is the federally chartered institution that exercises "exclusive jurisdiction" over "all matters pertaining to United States participation in the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, and the Pan-American Games . . . ." 36 U.S.C. § 220503(3)(A). The USOC's jurisdiction includes the responsibility to "organize, finance, and control the representation of the United States in the competitions and events of the Olympic Games . . . ." § 220505(c)(3). Congress also empowered the USOC to "recognize eligible amateur sports organizations as national governing bodies [("NGBs")] for any sport that is included on the program of the Olympic Games . . . ." § 220505(c)(4).

Defendant USAT is the NGB recognized by the USOC to govern the United States' participation in taekwondo. See SAC ¶ 98. Thus, USAT has the responsibility to select the athletes, officials, and coaches who will represent the United States in taekwondo in Olympic competitions. See id. ¶ 95. Defendant Jean Lopez was the head coach of the USAT team at the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics. Id. ¶ 139. Jean's brother, Defendant Steven Lopez, is a well-known athlete on the taekwondo team who won gold medals at the 2000 and 2004 games and a bronze medal in 2008. Id. ¶ 24. The two are part of a family that carries the moniker the "first family" of taekwondo. See id. ¶¶ 23-25.

Plaintiffs allege that during the time they participated in the USAT system, they were victims of sexual abuse, assault, and rape by Jean and Steven Lopez and by other members of the taekwondo community who are not defendants here. See id. ¶¶ 362-722.

II. Plaintiffs' Allegations of Sexual Assault
A. Mandy Meloon

Ms. Meloon was born in Germany in 1981. Id. ¶ 362. At the age of thirteen, she moved to the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs to train full-time in taekwondo. Id. ¶¶ 363-67. Soon after moving to the center, she was befriended by Jean Lopez. Id. ¶¶ 368-69. Ms. Meloon asserts that Jean Lopez engaged in sexual conversations with her and referred to her as his girlfriend. Id. ¶ 370. She alleges that Danny Kim, an adult member of the taekwondo national team, raped Ms. Meloon in her room at the training center in 1996. Id. ¶ 391. For approximately another year, while Ms. Meloon was still living at the training center, Mr. Kim continued to have sex with Ms. Meloon. See id. ¶¶ 392-97. Ms. Meloon made oral complaints about Mr. Kim in 1997 and a written complaint in 2006. Id. ¶ 398.

In 1995, at the age of fourteen, Ms. Meloon made the USAT senior national team. Id. ¶ 375. She was still on that team in 1997 when it traveled to Cairo, Egypt, to compete in the World Cup. Id. ¶¶ 399-402. During the trip, Ms. Meloon shared a hotel room with Plaintiff Kay Poe. Id. ¶ 402. Ms. Meloon claims that, one night while both girls were asleep, Jean Lopez entered the girls' room, climbed into Ms. Meloon's bed, and digitally penetrated her vagina for approximately five minutes. Id. ¶¶ 404-07. Ms. Meloon pretended she was asleep during this assault. Id. ¶ 408.

Ms. Meloon left the Olympic training center in 1998 and soon thereafter moved to Texas to train at Jean Lopez's gym. Id. ¶ 421. In 2000, when Ms. Meloon was eighteen, she began to have a sexual relationship with Steven Lopez. Id. ¶ 422. Ms. Meloon asserts that Steven soon became physically abusive. Id. ¶ 426. In 2002, he allegedly punched Ms. Meloon in the face. Id. ¶ 427. USOC and USAT officials "were aware" of this. Id. ¶ 428. Ms. Meloon also alleges that in 2004, Steven broke into her house, beat and raped her, then beat and raped her again in 2005. Id. ¶¶ 429-30. Later that year, at the World Championships in Madrid, Spain, Steven purportedly physically assaulted Ms. Meloon in their hotel, breaking her ribs. Id. ¶ 431. Ms. Meloon claims that, because she began to see other men after the Madrid incident, Coach Jean Lopez dropped Ms. Meloon from the national team. Id. ¶¶ 433-34.

B. Kay Poe

In 1996, at the age of fourteen, Ms. Poe became the youngest-ever member of the United States national taekwondo team. Id. ¶ 487. By 1997, Ms. Poe was having a sexual relationship with a twenty-two-year-old member of the team; the USOC allegedly had knowledge of this sexual relationship. Id. ¶¶ 491-93. Ms. Poe asserts that Jean Lopez "forced a sexual relationship" with her "while she was still a minor." Id. ¶ 497. She also contends that, by 1999 when Ms. Poe was seventeen years old, Jean was having full sexual intercourse with her. Id. ¶¶ 498-502. This sexualrelationship continued through the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, when she was a competitor on the team and Jean was the coach. Id. ¶ 507. Ms. Poe asserts she was able to stop Jean from forcing sex on her shortly after those games. Id. ¶ 508. But at the 2002 U.S. Open, Ms. Poe alleges Jean followed her to her hotel room and "dry humped" her until he ejaculated in his pants. Id. ¶¶ 508-09. Ms. Poe left the sport of taekwondo after she failed to make the 2008 Olympic team. Id. ¶ 512.

C. Heidi Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert was a member of the USAT team at the 2002 Pan-Am Championships in Ecuador. Id. ¶ 523. She alleges that one night, while she was celebrating with Diana Lopez (the Lopez Defendants' sister) in Jean's hotel room, Jean entered the room and wrestled Ms. Gilbert onto the bed. Jean pinned her down and "dry humped" her until he ejaculated in his pants. Id. ¶¶ 528-34. A year later, after a competition in Germany, Ms. Gilbert and Jean (among others) attended a party. Id. ¶ 542. Ms. Gilbert claims that Jean was sexually aggressive with her by initiating physical contact and eventually gave her a drink that had been drugged. Id. ¶¶ 543-44. The drink caused her to "almost pass out," and she felt she could not move. Id. ¶¶ 545-46. She contends that Jean put her in a taxi, where he felt her breasts and vagina over her clothes. Id. ¶ 547. Ms. Gilbert also alleges that, when they reached the hotel, Jean dragged her to the back of a lobby area and digitally penetrated her and performed oral sex on her. Id. ¶¶ 548-51.

D. Gabriela Joslin

Ms. Joslin was born on March 14, 1983, and grew up in Texas. Pls.' Statement Non-Opp'n to Def. Jean & Steven Lopez's Req. Judicial Notice 2, ECF No. 122; SAC ¶ 602. She had known the Lopez brothers since she was a young child. SAC ¶ 603. Jean Lopez became her taekwondo coach in 2006. Id. ¶ 605. That same year, Ms. Joslin planned to compete in the German Open togain experience to compete for the Olympic team but, at the last minute, Jean informed her that he would not travel to the competition. Id. ¶¶ 606-10. However, Steven Lopez was attending the event as a USAT athlete and coach and offered to serve as Ms. Joslin's coach. Id. ¶¶ 611-12.

The night before Ms. Joslin's first match, Steven went to her hotel room and said he wanted to discuss her upcoming match. Id. ¶ 616. Ms. Joslin asserts that, once in the room, Steven turned on the television and changed the channel to a pornographic movie. Id. ¶ 617. He then grabbed Ms. Joslin, pinned her to the bed, and began rubbing her buttocks. Id. ¶¶ 618-19. Ms. Joslin states, "[i]t was clear to [her] that Steven required sex before he would address his responsibilities as coach." Id. ¶ 620. The two then had sex, and Ms. Joslin continued to allow Steven to have sex with her for the remainder of her taekwondo career. Id. ¶¶ 621-22. She last had sex with Steven in 2010. Id. ¶ 624. She states she did this out of fear of Jean Lopez, who she alleges "made it clear . . . she was to cater to Steven." Id. ¶ 622 (quotation omitted).

After retiring as an athlete, Ms. Joslin began a career in Texas as a taekwondo coach. Id. ¶ 625. Around the same time, "Jean Lopez began a sexual relationship with her." Id. ¶ 626. Ms....

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