Bob McDonald “Categorically Denies” Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Triggering Lifetime Ban, Debbie McDonald Voices Strong Support

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Robert “Bob” McDonald. File photo. © Ken Braddick/

June 12, 2020

Robert “Bob” McDonald on Friday “categorically” denied allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors that 48 hours ago led to the United States Center for SafeSport imposing a lifetime ban on involvement in equestrian and hockey activities.

The 73-year-old husband of U.S. dressage team coach Debbie McDonald said he is seeking the opportunity to “present the facts and a fair defense at an independent arbitration” that he said he is confident he will be “fully exonerated” of the allegation of misconduct 47 years ago.

Debbie said in a statement on Facebook: “Right now we cannot say much. But just because it was Bob as the accused don’t think for a moment after 42 years of marriage it doesn’t affect the entire family. And the truth will come out! He is innocent!”

The Center for SafeSport was created by the U.S. Congress in 2017 amidst widespread allegations of sexual abuse of minors that led to imprisonment for life of the Olympic gymnastics team coach.

The statement by Bob McDonald, who has homes in Hailey, Idaho and Wellington, Florida, said: “I want to begin by stating that I am humbled by the outpouring of support that Debbie and I have received during these past few days. It would be impossible to deal with this matter without your warm kindness and I wanted to thank you all for it.

“With that said, it is with great sadness that I have to release a statement such as this one, but as many of you already know, on June 10, the U.S. Center for SafeSport banned me from participating in the sport that has been my entire life over the last 50 years. It is beyond heartbreaking to see the reputation that I have painstakingly built throughout my career be tarnished by an allegation of misconduct from 47 years ago. Even more gut-wrenching is watching my loved ones being dragged through this as well. It is a terrible reality that we are living in a time when allegations alone would lead to the imposition of such a harsh public sanction. Unfortunately, the system in place does not allow for individuals to be given the opportunity to effectively defend any of the allegations prior to a ban, which is why I have requested for an independent arbitration on the matter.

“It would be inappropriate of me to comment more other than to simply say that I categorically deny the allegations that have been made against me. Throughout my 50-plus year career in the sport, I have always acted in a professional and respectful manner towards all individuals that I have come in contact with, which is why I am shocked at the allegations that were made.

“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, it is of equal importance that the process be fair and balanced. That certainly has not been the case here.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to present the facts and a fair defense at an independent arbitration. I stand firm on the reputation I have built over half a century and am confident that I will be fully exonerated when the arbitration is complete.

“Finally, I want to add that these are difficult and trying times for myself, Debbie, and our families. We again would like to thank everyone who has reached out with kindness, generosity, compassion, and grace. Your support has carried us the last couple of days and will continue to do so.”

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.

His primary involvement in equestrian was as a trainer in hunters and jumpers.

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.”