On Aug. 5, the U.S. Center for SafeSport announced that former U.S. Equestrian Federation Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris had been given a lifetime suspension (pending appeal) for sexual misconduct involving a minor.
In a statement issued the same day, Morris said: “I am deeply troubled by the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s findings regarding unsubstantiated charges for events that allegedly occurred between 1968 and 1972. I contest these findings wholeheartedly and am in the process of disputing them.”
Kira Wilson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Center for SafeSport, explained in a statement how that process unfolds: “After the Center issues a decision following an investigation, a respondent has five days to request an independent arbitration. At arbitration, each side makes an opening statement, presents witnesses and evidence, and makes closing statements. The Center has the burden to prove the misconduct more likely than not occurred (a preponderance of evidence), and that it imposed the appropriate sanction. It’s a process that typically unfolds over 45 days, which can vary based on scheduling with the arbitrators, the parties involved and more.”
Wilson said the Center could not comment on any specifics of Morris’ case, including whether or not there was more than one accuser, or the length of the investigation. “When it comes to detailing individual matters, it’s the Center’s policy not to comment on specific matters,” she said in a statement. “We do this to protect the integrity of the process and the privacy of the individuals involved, including parties reporting abuse. Generally speaking, investigations can take time, as the Center has a thorough process, taking many steps to identify witnesses and other potential victims, collect and analyze evidence, coordinate with law enforcement as needed, and more.”
Morris generally keeps a busy schedule as a clinician. Vicki Lowell, chief marketing and content officer for USEF, said in a statement: “The U.S. Center for SafeSport Code has an Aiding and Abetting provision where it is a violation of the SafeSport Code to allow a banned person to coach or instruct participants. Based on this, someone facilitating a clinic may be subject to disciplinarian action by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”
Although Morris is no longer registered with the Fédération Equestre Internationale and is not involved with the FEI in any capacity, he is in the FEI database as a former athlete and is therefore marked as suspended, an FEI spokesperson confirmed. “Under the terms of the FEI Safeguarding Policy Against Harassment and Abuse (Appendix I of the FEI General Regulations), the FEI has a reciprocal implementation policy of any bans or suspensions imposed by any of our National Federations. See Article 9 – Mutual Recognition. In addition, under Article 10 of the Policy, the FEI has a duty to inform the National Federations of any sanctions imposed on any person under their jurisdiction relating to any harassment and/or abuse case(s),” the FEI said in a statement.
Morris, who had been the chef d’equipe for the Brazilian show jumping team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, therefore is not able to coach teams from other countries.
Read more of the Chronicle’s coverage of SafeSport issues here.