Robert “Bob” McDonald, Husband of USA Dressage Team Coach Debbie McDonald, Banned for Life for Alleged Sexual Misconduct Involving Minors

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Bob McDonald with Debbie McDonald.
File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

June 11, 2020

Robert “Bob” McDonald, the husband of United States dressage team coach Debbie McDonald, has been banned for life from involvement in equestrian and hockey for alleged sexual misconduct involving minors.

The “permanent ineligibility” in U.S. Equestrian Federation and USA Hockey was posted on the U.S. SafeSport site that gave the effective date of the ban as of June 10.

Bob McDonald, whose primary involvement in equestrian was as a trainer in hunters and jumpers, is 73 years old and married Debbie in 1977. He lists his residence as Hailey, Idaho where he and Debbie lived and worked at River Grove Farm, the property of by Peggy and Perry Thomas who owned Olympic horses Brentina ridden by Debbie and Wizard ridden by Adrienne Lyle.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation issued a brief statement confirming the ban, but no details of the alleged misconduct or when it occurred. It said:

“The U.S. Center for SafeSport has issued a lifetime ban of hunter/jumper equestrian trainer Robert “Bob” McDonald for violating the SafeSport Code. With this decision, Mr. McDonald is permanently prohibited from participating, in any capacity, in any event, program, activity, or competition authorized by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, USEF, or any affiliates of USEF.”

U.S. SafeSport Center was created by Congress in 2017 in the wake of sexual abuse, particularly of young athletes, with several cases involving American gymnastics and the team doctor who has since been imprisoned for life. The first disciplinary action taken by SafeSport was in May, 2017 involving a rugby player.

The first equestrian case undertaken by SafeSport, whose investigations, hearings and decisions are all conducted in secret, was in March 2018 (correcting earlier version). The organization’s centralized database lists 35 cases involving equestrians, out of many hundreds involving most sports.

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.