July 2019 - Rob Gage Suicide
Written by CRM
Monday, 01 July 2019 05:49
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Well-known trainer’s death stirs intensified debate about SafeSport.

Well-known hunter/jumper trainer, rider and coach Rob Gage took his life on June 12, sending shock waves throughout the sport and beyond. He was a three-time World Cup Jumping Finals rider in the 1980s and, more recently, partner in Judge My Ride. He was an active coach with many friends and supporters in the industry.

 

In February of this year, Rob was placed on the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s permanently ineligible list, banning him from USEF membership and from participating in any events sanctioned by the USEF. The placement followed an investigation and hearing process which determined that he was allegedly involved in “sexual misconduct involving a minor.” In its June 14 article, The Chronicle Of The Horse reported receiving a statement from the Center saying that he was found guilty of sexual conduct with “a number of minors.”

 

Gage’s close friend and fellow professional Bernie Traurig shared on Facebook that he had spent time with Gage shortly before the suicide. He wrote that Gage seemed optimistic about an appeal that was slated for June 17. Then, the night before he took his life, Gage told Traurig that another accuser had come forward.

Passionate debates about the SafeSport investigative process and the program’s value existed long before Gage’s suicide, in the equestrian world and well beyond. They escalated to new levels in the aftermath, with the investigation process criticized and questioned and praised and described as necessary. Topics included whether there should be a statute of limitations, which SafeSport does not have. In Gage’s case, the alleged abuses were said to have occurred around 30 years ago.

SafeSport exists across all Olympic disciplines and is intended primarily to protect young people vulnerable to pressure and undue influence from coaches and others in positions of power in their sport. SafeSport training is now required of all adults competing or working at USEF sanctioned competitions.

By presstime, a range of responses had been widely circulated online. After sifting through much of it, we felt it most appropriate to publish two responses. The USEF’s official response can be found on this page. And, a powerful statement from hunter/jumper trainer Kristin Medall Simpson-Ferguson Hardin can be found here.

For more information, visit the SafeSport tab on USEF.org.