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Olympic bobsled medalist files lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by chiropractor employed by USA Bobsled

<i>Quinn Rooney/Getty Images</i><br/>Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans of the United States slide during the Women's Bobsleigh heats on day twelve of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang-gun
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans of the United States slide during the Women's Bobsleigh heats on day twelve of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang-gun

By Jill Martin, CNN

(CNN) — Aja Evans, an Olympic bobsled athlete who won bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games, has filed a lawsuit alleging she was sexually abused by a chiropractor who was working with the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

Chiropractor Jonathan Wilhelm, as well as the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation and Wilhelm’s personal practice in Montana, Pro Chiropractic, are named defendants in the suit, which was filed Wednesday in a New York state court.

According to the filing, Evans alleges Wilhelm repeatedly sexually harassed and sexually assaulted her under the guise of athletic medical care while she was a member of the USA Bobsled team, starting in 2012.

“This lawsuit is not only to spare other athletes from the predatory behavior of Mr. Wilhelm, who continues to practice sports medicine, but also to hold USA Bobsled and the USOPC accountable for their role in enabling my abuser and neglecting the wellbeing of their athletes,” Evans says in a news release provided by her attorneys.

“Dr. Wilhelm denies the detestable claims against him,” Ryan Stevens, an Arizona-based attorney representing Wilhelm, said in an email to CNN. “He has not yet had the opportunity to defend any of these baseless claims in court or through the litigation process, but he will. Dr. Wilhelm has reputably served and protected professional athletes all over the world. Dr. Wilhelm looks forward to vetting these unfounded claims and will pursue all legal avenues to protect his professional reputation.”

The court filing says Wilhelm “touched and groped Ms. Evans’ genitals and body in contravention of any applicable medical standards.” Additionally, the suit alleges Wilhelm “was reported for recording video of and photographing Ms. Evans and others without their permission and in various states of undress during treatment sessions and prior to competition at the USOPC training facility in Lake Placid, New York.”

“During Plaintiff’s treatments with Defendant Wilhelm, Defendant Wilhelm would, under the guise of providing treatment, expose and touch her inner genital area and inner groin,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Wilhelm always found reasons to work on or around Plaintiff’s adductor muscles, despite no complaints of issues specific to this area. It was well known among the athletes treated by Defendant Wilhelm that he would always find a reason to ‘go for the adductor.’”

According to the lawsuit, Evans “had not experienced any groin strain or groin pain that would necessitate undue attention to or treatment in the adductor or groin area.”

The lawsuit says the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and USA Bobsled “knew or should have known that Defendant Wilhelm had a history of sexually inappropriate behavior with athletes, and had committed acts of sexual assault and invasion of privacy in photographing athletes without their consent, and that Defendant Wilhelm posed significant risks to the athletes on their teams and in their programs, including Plaintiff.”

The lawsuit also alleges Evans and her teammates tried to have Wilhelm removed due to their own reported discomfort and concerns with him.

But the court filing says complaints raised by the plaintiff and her teammates “were wholly ignored” and USOPC and USA Bobsled still chose the defendant to provide care to the US Women’s Bobsled team, “sometimes as the only treatment provider,” despite “clear complaints of concerning behavior and discomfort by athletes.”

CNN has reached out to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee for comment. The organization told USA Today on Thursday it hadn’t received a copy of the suit and added: “We take athlete safety and every allegation of abuse very seriously. The USOPC remains committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community.”

Wilhelm’s company Pro Chiropractic, in an email to CNN, declined to comment.

The lawsuit also claims the defendant’s “‘treatment’ of Ms. Evans mirrors the abuse perpetuated by” Larry Nassar – the ex-USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually abused girls for decades and is now serving effectively a life sentence in prison.

When asked about the comparison of Wilhelm to Nassar, his attorney told CNN, “It’s attention-seeking behavior and clearly designed to defame Dr. Wilhelm unfairly, rather than focusing on litigating the actual facts in a court of law.”

When asked for comment about the lawsuit, a spokesperson from the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation told CNN: “While we are unable to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit or any ongoing investigations, USABS condemns sexual misconduct. These types of matters fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Center for SafeSport and law enforcement. USABS is fully supportive and cooperative of all investigations conducted by SafeSport. USABS remains committed to promoting a safe and respectful environment for all athletes, coaches, staff and volunteers.”

When reached by CNN regarding the case, the U.S. Center for SafeSport said the organization doesn’t comment on any specific matters to protect the integrity of its investigative process.

Stevens confirmed to CNN he is representing Wilhelm in a pending U.S. Center for SafeSport matter.

In November, Evans, 35, accepted a two-year suspension for not submitting a sample during an out-of-competition test in March 2022.

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CNN’s Matt Foster and Jacob Lev contributed to this report.

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