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Sat March 9, 2013
Speedskater Nikki Meyer: "I Couldn't Believe What Was Happening"
A second speedskater has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct by four-time Olympic speedskater and former US Speedskating head Andy Gabel. Nikki Meyer, who was known as Nikki Ziegelmeyer during her skating career says she was fifteen years old in 1991 when Gabel forced her to have sex in a dorm room at the US Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Michigan.
Meyer says she had been advised by a coach to bring her skates to Gabel’s room to have some adjustments made. “He said ‘make yourself comfortable, I’ll be right back.’,” she recalls. “So I leaned up against the footboard – these are kind of small rooms, little dorm rooms, and leaned up against the foot board of the bed, and just kind of leaned there for it couldn’t have been more than a minute, and as he came around the corner, the lights came off, and I’m, like, what’s going on? And he proceeded to push me down over the footboard onto his bed and jumped on top of me.”
Meyer says she tried to push Gabel away, but was unsuccessful. Afterwards, she says he warned her against telling anyone. Nevertheless, she says she immediately told several female teammates. They didn’t believe her, Meyer says.
I couldn’t believe it. Because just ten seconds before then he said if you try to tell anybody they won’t believe you. And he was right – they absolutely didn’t believe me. - Nikki Meyer
Meyer says she decided not to tell her parents what had happened, because she didn’t want the incident to derail her Olympic ambitions. Meyer would go on to win medals at the Winter Olympics in 1992 and 1994.
Reach by email on Friday, Gabel, admitted to an inappropriate relationship, as he had with Bridie Farrell’s allegations made on Lake Effect a week before, but denied that abuse was involved:
I want to emphasize, there was no incident of any abuse ever. I never forced myself on any individual and any allegations of that nature are absolutely false. Any relationship I had was consentual [sic]. Looking back on it now, I understand that my conduct nearly 20 years ago, and longer, was* *still inappropriate. I've apologized publically[sic] for that and I am sorry for crossing that line. I understand that inappropriateness more than ever now.
And so I resigned from the International Skating Union and US Speedskating because I care about the athletes and the sport that I have given so much of my life to and I did not want this type of story to have any adverse effects on the athletes, the organization, and the progress of the sport.
Nearly two decades ago, * * I made personal mistakes and looking back on it now, I wish that I would have been more mature and made better choices.
Meyer says Gabel continued to pursue her in subsequent days and weeks, and gradually was able to persuade her that he thought she was special. “I don’t know how he ended up breaking me down to start to believe in him,” she says. “He’s got this charm about him that I’m sure many people can verify, and he can use his charm and his wit to snow the most intelligent adults, let alone a 15, 16 year old young, impressionable, completely naïve girl.”
Alcohol was also part of the mix, as time progressed, Meyer says. “Ultimately, drinking leads to vulnerability, and vulnerability to a pedophile is a prime moment to swoop in and make your moves.” She says she also turned to drinking, “as a crutch to not make it feel so bad.”
She says their relationship lasted through the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, shortly after she turned 18. She says she pressed Gabel to make their relationship public, but he refused.
Meyer says she decided to come forward after hearing skater Bridie Farrell tell her story on WUWM’s Lake Effect last week.
I felt bad for Bridie, and had reached out to her after originally hearing the interviews, just to let her know that she wasn’t going through this alone, and there were more of us out there.
Late Friday, US Speedskating announced it will investigate Meyer’s allegations, and Farrell’s as well:
US Speedskating is aware of a second allegation brought by another athlete against a former board member. We have engaged the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP to thoroughly investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct brought forward by both athletes. US Speedskating will not tolerate abuse of any kind and we intend to investigate these claims, and any others that arise.
In her interview with Lake Effect, Farrell talked at length about coming forward as a means to change the culture of sport. Meyer, though, says her reasons were more personal. “I have hidden and ran from my Olympic status since I retired. People will recognize me and ask me to talk about it and I would as soon no one even know I was involved [the Olympics].”
Now she says her time as a skater is no less easy to talk about. But, she says, “this has given me an opportunity to finally get it off my chest. Now I don’t have to live with the secrets any more.”