Bobsledder Aja Evans is the latest Olympic athlete to accuse a trainer of sexual abuse

How many more of these cases are out there but unreported?

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Aja Evans says Jonathan Wilhelm groped and inappropriately photographed her.
Aja Evans says Jonathan Wilhelm groped and inappropriately photographed her.
Photo: AP

I was once discussing the Catholic Church abuse scandal with some friends. The main thrust of the conversation was this: Is there something about the Church that specifically causes priests to abuse children? Or are predators attracted to the Church because they know they can abuse there? We never came to a satisfactory conclusion, but to this day I wonder about our question every time the Church is in the news.

It seems, sadly, that we can ask the same question about the US Olympics program, which has seen multiple sexual assault scandals over the past several years, most infamously Larry Nassar, who sexually abused dozens, if not hundreds, of gymnasts while the team doctor for the US gymnastics. Lesser known are the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal, the USA Track and Field sex abuse scandal, the USA Speedskating sex abuse scandal, the USA Taekwondo sex abuse scandal, the USA Fencing sex abuse scandal… you get the picture. According to a 2017 Washington Post investigation, “(m)ore than 290 coaches and officials associated with the United States’ Olympic sports organizations have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct since 1982.” And that’s not including all the coaches and officials who have been accused of not taking victims’ reports of abuse seriously or allowing abuse to continue on their watch.


Into this toxic stew of sexual misconduct comes the latest Olympic athlete to accuse Team USA of hiring a sexual abuser and giving him easy access to Olympic athletes. US bobsledder Aja Evans filed a lawsuit in New York State court Wednesday morning, alleging that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by USA Bobsled, and Skeleton Federation medical staff member Jonathan Wilhelm, a chiropractor. The lawsuit claims that Wilelm “touched and groped Ms. Evans’ genitals and body in contravention of any applicable medical standards.” Evans further alleges that Wilhelm took photos and made “videos of her partially clothed at the Olympic training facility in Lake Placid and other locations between 2012 and 2022. When she was hospitalized following an accident while training in December 2021 in Germany, she woke up to Wilhelm touching her, the lawsuit says.”


According to ESPN:

“Evans says she and her teammates reported Wilhelm’s behavior to coaches and officials within USA Bobsled and Skeleton after Wilhelm recorded video and took pictures of them in various states of undress during treatment sessions and before competition.

“At times I spoke up to the coaches and the medical staff, it was really disregarded,” Evans told ESPN.

In discussions with teammates, Evans says, it became well known that, regardless of the injury, Wilhelm would “go for the adductor,” a collection of muscles in the pelvic region.

She and her teammates became so uncomfortable with Wilhelm’s behavior, Evans says, that in 2016 they decided to pool their money, and take the unusual step of paying to fly in their own medical provider during training sessions.”


Wilhelm’s attorney released a statement on behalf of his client denying the allegations.

Evans isn’t the first athlete to accuse a team medical doctor of using medicine as a pretense for sexual abuse. After all, Nassar perfected that technique during his time at Michigan State University, and USA Gymnastics. And there’s no doubt she won’t be the last. But the bigger question is how so many sexual predators are involved in training Team USA on a regular basis. How did so many of these guys wind up working with America’s best and brightest? Given the rigorous standards athletes must meet in order to be a part of the US Olympic program, are staff members around the team not under the same scrutiny? Why does even one complaint against a team doctor not result in their immediate suspension while the allegation is investigated? Why is Team USA disregarding and ignoring any complaint of sexual assault? And where is SafeSport, the organization established by The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee to protect athletes from sexual abuse in all of this?


The Olympics have become harder and harder to watch over the years, as a host of concerns for the environment, financial and moral corruption, geopolitics, racial, and gender equality, and a host of other issues have been raised around the globe. But it’s hard to imagine that sexual abuse is happening to members of Team USA and not to athletes in other nations, potentially expanding the number of victims of sexual abuse exponentially.

And there’s no video package in the world NBC can make slick enough to cover up that reality.