THE BIG PICTURE: Tragic suicide of former U.S. Pairs Skating champ John Coughlin

The U.S. Center for SafeSport notice of suspension for John Coughlin

One of the best parts of sports is that it’s not life and death. But the line between sport and reality is sometimes blurred, as in the tragic situation involving John Coughlin.

Coughlin was a two-time U.S. Pairs champion in 2011 – with Caitlin Yankowskas – and in 2012, with Caydee Denney, with whom he won a silver medal at the 2012 Four Continents meeting.

Coughlin, 33, died of an apparent suicide on 18 January (Friday) in Kansas City, after being placed on interim suspension from the sport by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

USA Today reported that Coughlin was accused of sexual misconduct in three separate reports. The Center for SafeSport received the first report on 17 December and his interim suspension was logged on 17 January.

Coughlin denied the allegations against him in a 7 January message sent to USA Today, but U.S. Figure Skating entered him on its list of “Person Suspended” with the following notice:

“On January 17, 2019 the U.S. Center for SafeSport issued the following interim measure regarding U.S. Figure Skating member John Coughlin:

“Temporary Suspension. Beginning on January 17, 2019, Responding Party John Coughlin is prohibited from participating, in any capacity, in any activity or competition authorized by, organized by, or under the auspices of the United States Olympic Committee, the national governing bodies recognized by the United States Olympic Committee, including U.S. Figure Skating, and/or a Local Affiliated Organization of a national governing body recognized by the United States Olympic Committee.

“Pursuant to U.S. Figure Skating Bylaw Article XXV, Section 2, U.S. Figure Skating hereby suspends John Coughlin, beginning on January 17, 2019, pending final resolution of the matter by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”

Following the report of his death, U.S. Figure Skating released a short statement, which read in part, “We are stunned at the news of the death of two-time U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin. Our heartfelt and deepest sympathies are with his father Mike, sister Angela and the rest of his family.”

Coughlin’s death is even more poignant given that the 2019 U.S. National Championships are already underway in Detroit, Michigan, with the senior divisions beginning competition on Thursday (24th) at Little Caesars Arena.

Sometimes sport and life and death are intertwined.