Robert “Bob” McDonald Cleared of Allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Lifting of SafeSport Lifetime Ban

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Bob McDonald with Debbie McDonald. File photo. © 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 cleared of allegation of sexual misconduct that led to the Center for SafeSport imposing a lifetime ban on involvement in equestrian and hockey activities.

The SafeSport internet registry that lists all findings by the organization as of Thursday night no longer carried any reference to Bob, 73, who has spent a lifetime involved in horse sports.

Bob was not immediately available for comment. The U.S. Equestrian Federation that confirmed the ban was also asked to comment on the decision.

The decision on allegation of misconduct involving minors that supposedly occurred 47 years ago were first posted on SafeSport on June 10.

Bob, of Hailey, Idaho and Wellington, Florida 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 will “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.

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

It has come under criticism for the procedures investigating allegations of abuse, copied and still used in the main from those set up originally for colleges and universities but have since been modified significantly in the educational field to provide more protections for those accused of abuses.

The first equestrian case undertaken by SafeSport, whose investigations, hearings and decisions are all conducted in secret, was in March 2018.

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 who is also fighting a lifetime ban.