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Penn State coach suspended after failure to report alleged sexual misconduct

The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
Penn State

Penn State's longtime fencing coach has been suspended for three years by the nonprofit that monitors abuse in Olympic sports, after a complaint by a North Carolina coach that he suppressed her sexual-misconduct complaint against one of his assistants.

The action against Wes Glon was handed down Monday by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a Denver-based nonprofit that had been launched in 2017 to identify and reduce misconduct in Olympic sports. SafeSport's disciplinary database states that Glon's misconduct includes failure to report, abuse of process, and retaliation.

USA Fencing notified its coaches of the center's decision in an email Monday: " Mr. Glon may not participate in any capacity or in any role in any business, event or activity conducted or sanctioned by USA Fencing or by any Member Club or Affiliate Club."

Penn State said it learned of the decision Monday night and has placed Glon on interim suspension pending further review. The university appointed Adam Kaszubowski, an assistant, as interim head coach.

Glon has the right to appeal, but the suspension stays in effect during the appeal process, according to a spokesperson for SafeSport. Jeffrey A. Lutsky, Glon's attorney, said: "We just got the report yesterday afternoon. We're still digesting it and considering our appeal options."

The SafeSport center received more than 2,300 reports of alleged sexual, emotional, or physical abuse or misconduct in 2020 and opened nearly 1,900 cases, according to its annual report. The center maintains a centralized database of disciplinary actions. The database includes the names of more than 1,500 individuals who were restricted temporarily or permanently from their sport, including those dating prior to the establishment of the center.

The action on Glon follows a complaint by Jennifer Oldham, head coach of the Mid-South Fencers' Club in Durham, N.C., who said Glon failed to act on her complaint that one of his assistants, George "Gia" Abashidze, grabbed and sexually harassed her on a plane in 2017 when she was returning from a competition with a group of fencing coaches.

She told The Inquirer in a 2019 interview that she informed Glon about the incident but that he seemed more concerned about how the allegation would affect Abashidze than about her or Penn State students. He told her he did not plan to report the incident, she said.

Oldham's husband later reported the incident to Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour. Penn State investigated and fired Abashidze but left Glon in place as head coach, much to Oldham's dismay. She said in the interview with The Inquirer in 2019 that she thought a head coach at Penn State, which had weathered so much criticism over its handling of complaints of serial child sex abuse by Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, would have reported the incident.

"They say they've had all this training, all this awareness, and yet this happened," she said at the time.

According to an internal Penn State report that summarized its investigation and was obtained by The Inquirer, Glon had deemed Oldham's accusation "difficult to believe."

Oldham said in a statement Tuesday that she was encouraged by the SafeSport decision.

"Simmering disrespect for women in fencing is so pervasive, it's our own dysfunctional norm," she said. The decision, she said, "sheds a brighter light on sexual harassment in fencing and other sports. My hope is that I can be part of the solution to this emerging crisis."

Oldham is suing Penn State for its handling of the case, along with Glon, Abashidze, and Penn State's Title IX coordinator.

Penn State's coed fencing team for years has been a national contender — the university awards fencing scholarships. Glon has been on the coaching staff for more than three decades and head coach since 2013. Lutsky, his lawyer, called him "a highly decorated and respected coach."

Oldham also had told Ed Korfanty, an internationally renowned fencing coach with whom she had trained in Portland, Ore., about the incident. In an 2019 interview with The Inquirer, Korfanty said he didn't know whether to believe Oldham or Abashidze. He also told The Inquirer he was upset that Oldham called him and sparked an investigation by SafeSport.

Days after that article, Korfanty resigned as national coach of the U.S. women's saber team.