George Morris, Olympic Medalist, Former USA Jumping Coach, Banned for Life for Alleged Sexual Misconduct Involving Minor Half Century Ago

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George Morris. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Aug. 5, 2019

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

George Morris, an Olympic medalist, former coach of the United States jumping team and a global icon training equestrians around the world, has been banned for life for alleged sexual misconduct involving a minor a half century ago.

The United States Equestrian Federation on Monday published the “permanent ineligibility” of the 81-year-old, the most severe penalty that can be meted out under the SafeSport procedures that were implemented in 2018 .

George Morris, who lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida about 55 miles/88 km north of Wellington, was on the U.S. silver medal team at the Rome Olympics in 1960 after he had been a star youth rider.

The decision was made by a panel of SafeSport, the procedure set up by the U.S. Congress to deal with sexual abuse in sports in recent years, especially by an official U.S. team doctor of minors in gymnastics, but also other sports including equestrian.

“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,” George Morris said in a statement emailed to riders and trainers enrolled in his clinics.

“I contest these findings wholeheartedly and am in the process of disputing them.

“I have devoted my life to equestrian sport and the development of future riders, coaches and Olympians. Any allegations that suggest I have acted in ways that are harmful to any individual, the broader equestrian community, and sport that I love dearly are false and hurtful.”

Sonja Keating, a spokeswoman for the USEF, said in a statement that national federation and its affiliates would enforce the ban.

“The Center investigated the allegations against Morris, found them credible, issued their ruling, and banned Morris for life,” she said.

George Morris has for decades been in high demand around the world as a clinician and widely labeled “A Living Legend.”

He was coach of the U.S. team that took team silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games and team gold at the 2008 Olympics. He was coach of the Brazilian team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. His books on hunter seat equitation and the American style of jumping have been best sellers.

The Center for SafeSport, an independent investigative body charged with examining sexual misconduct in Olympic sports and the designation of a permanent suspension was, according to a spokesman, “reserved for the most egregious cases.”

Equestrian sports have been subject to a recent wave of investigations by SafeSport.

Robert Gage, a champion equestrian from California, killed himself in June while fighting a suspension for sexual misconduct with a number of minors, according to SafeSport, which itself has been criticized for what some see as a lack of transparency in procedures.

He was a protégé of Jimmy A. Williams, a leading show jumping trainer who was found to have sexually abused several children he trained over his nearly five decades. He was lauded by the USEF and a national award named for him. He died in 1993 and barred from membership of the USEF almost a quarter centry after his death.