UPDATE–US Federation Confirms Robert “Bob” McDonald “Fully Reinstated” After SafeSport Clears Him of Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

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Robert “Bob” McDonald “fully reinstated” as US Equestrian Federation member after SafeSport cleared him of allegations of sexual misconduct. File photo: © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Aug. 21, 2020

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Robert “Bob” McDonald, the husband of U.S. dressage team coach Debbie McDonald, has been “fully reinstated” by the U.S. Equestrian Federation after the Center for SafeSport cleared him of allegation of sexual misconduct that led to a lifetime ban on equestrian and hockey activities.

“We do not have any details on the decision made by the U.S. Center for SafeSport,” a USEF spokesperson said after Bob McDonald’s name and details of the case were deleted from the official public Centralized Disciplinary Database where it was originally posted by SafeSport June 10.

“All information with regards to the case remains confidential in accordance with the policies of the Center. Mr. McDonald has been fully reinstated as a USEF member.”

The SafeSport internet registry that lists findings by the organization on Thursday night removed any reference to the case in which Bob was alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor 47 years ago.

Bob McDonald, 73, of Hailey, Idaho and Wellington, Florida, was not immediately available for comment.

He categorically denied the allegations and sought to “present the facts and a fair defense at an independent arbitration” that he said at the time he was confident would “fully exonerate” him.

“While it is paramount for the sport to have a thoughtful and thorough avenue for our riders and trainers to address complaints and areas of concern,” he said then, “it is of equal importance that the process be fair and balanced. That certainly has not been the case here.”

The case was apparently dropped by SafeSport even before it went to arbitration, but more than two months after the initial determination was published.

The Center for SafeSport was initially proposed by the U.S. Olympic Committee whose own leadership was accused of covering up abuses in gymnastics, and then formally created by the U.S. Congress in 2017.

It has come under criticism for the procedures that were copied from federal rules regarding handling of allegations of abuse in colleges and universities. The procedures have been significantly changed in the educational field to provide more protections for those accused of abuses, but have not been changed by SafeSport.

More than 1,300 cases involving Olympic sports have been posted on the SafeSport registry.

The first equestrian case undertaken by SafeSport, whose investigations, hearings and decisions are all conducted in secret, was in March 2018 and currently includes 35 people who were are are members of the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

The most prominent equestrian case has been that of George Morris, the legendary former U.S. jumping team coach and Olympic medalist, banned for life last August for alleged sexual misconduct involving a minor. He is also fighting a lifetime ban.