George Morris, one of the country’s top equestrian trainers and a former Olympic equestrian coach, has been banned for life from the United States Equestrian Federation by the United States Center for SafeSport. According to the USEF website, Morris has been banned for “sexual misconduct involving a minor.”
Dan Hill, a spokesperson for SafeSport, told the New York Times that a permanent lifetime ban is the harshest punishment SafeSport can issue, and that it’s “reserved for the most egregious cases.”
SafeSport doesn’t release the findings of its investigations to protect the victims, but Morris gave some context in an email he sent to people who follow his classes, which was obtained by the Times. According to Morris, the ban stems from 40-year-old accusations.
“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. I contest these findings wholeheartedly and am in the process of disputing them.”
“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 spokesperson for the USEF, told the Times in a statement that the Federation would enforce the ban.
“The Center investigated the allegations against Morris, found them credible, issued their ruling, and banned Morris for life.”
Morris, 81, won a silver medal for show jumping at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Since then he has become a prominent trainer and coach, and has coached both the U.S. and Brazilian Olympic equestrian teams. He has also authored many books on equestrian, and according to the Times, Morris is so well-known for his “tart turns of phrase” within the sport that he even has a talking action figure.
Morris is the third prominent equestrian figure to have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors in the last 18 months. A 2018 investigation by the New York Times found that long-dead show-jumping trainer Jimmy A. Williams had sexually abused several children over his 50-year career. Williams’ protege, Robert Gage, committed suicide in June 2019 while appealing a suspension for sexual misconduct with minors.
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