George H. Morris, the foremost trainer in equestrian competition and a former coach of the United States Olympic team, was barred for life from the United States Equestrian Federation on Monday as a result of an investigation into “sexual misconduct involving a minor,” according to the published details of the suspension.
The permanent suspension, which appeared online on Monday, is the most severe meted out by the United States Center for SafeSport, an independent investigative body charged with examining sexual misconduct in Olympic sports, according to Dan Hill, a spokesman. While SafeSport does not publicly announce its findings in order to protect victims, Mr. Hill said that the designation of a permanent suspension was “reserved for the most egregious cases.”
In a bulk email sent to people who follow his clinics and master classes, Mr. Morris, 81, said he would appeal the decision, which he said stemmed from allegations about actions that took place over four decades ago.
“I am deeply troubled by the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s findings regarding unsubstantiated charges for events that allegedly occurred between 1968 and 1972,” Mr. Morris said in the statement. “I contest these findings wholeheartedly and am in the process of disputing them.”
He continued: “I have devoted my life to equestrian sport and the development of future riders, coaches and Olympians. Any allegations that suggest I have acted in ways that are harmful to any individual, the broader equestrian community, and sport that I love dearly are false and hurtful.”
Sonja Keating, a spokeswoman for the equestrian federation, said that U.S. Equestrian and its affiliates would enforce the ban, which is subject to appeal.
“The Center investigated the allegations against Morris, found them credible, issued their ruling, and banned Morris for life,” she said in a statement.
Equestrian sports have been subject to a recent wave of investigations by SafeSport. Mr. Morris’s suspension represents the highest echelon that those investigations have reached.
After winning a silver medal as a show jumper in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Mr. Morris went on to coach the United States Olympic team and most recently the Brazilian team. Mr. Morris, the author of prominent books on the sport, and is known for his tart turns of phrase that have spawned memes and even an action figure that repeats his witticisms.
In June, Robert Gage, a champion equestrian from California, killed himself while fighting a suspension for sexual misconduct with a number of minors, according to SafeSport. The death roiled the equestrian world, which has since grappled with the lack of transparency critics find in SafeSport’s process, with the need to protect victims and with the sport’s reverence for powerful trainers.
Mr. Gage was a protégé of Jimmy A. Williams, a leading show-jumping trainer who a 2018 Times investigation found had sexually abused several of the children he trained over his nearly 50-year career. Mr. Williams died in 1993. The equestrian federation barred Mr. Williams from its membership — 24 years 6 months 14 days after his death.
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