John Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs champion who was suspended Thursday evening by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating, died Friday, according to a Facebook post from his sister.
“My wonderful, strong, amazingly compassionate brother John Coughlin took his own life earlier today,” Angela Laune wrote. “I have no words.”
Kansas City police confirmed Coughlin’s suicide. They didn’t release a full report but said they were dispatched at 4:54 p.m. Friday to the 10900 block of Washington Street in Kansas City and the deceased was Coughlin.
Coughlin, 33, was a fixture at skating competitions and rinks around the country as a coach, TV commentator and a rising star within both USFS and the International Skating Union, the sport’s worldwide federation.
But on Dec. 17, his eligibility to participate in his sport was restricted by SafeSport pending final resolution of a matter concerning him that was presented to the center. USA TODAY reported that news on Jan. 7. The next day, Coughlin resigned as U.S. brand manager for John Wilson Blades, a major skate blade company.
Then, on Thursday, SafeSport elevated his disciplinary record to “Interim Suspension.” USFS immediately followed with a temporary suspension of its own, prohibiting him from participating “in any capacity, in any activity or competition” authorized or organized by USFS or the U.S. Olympic Committee.
That included the upcoming national figure skating championships in Detroit next week, U.S. skating’s biggest week of the year. The head of the TV production company for the nationals said earlier this week that Coughlin would not be working there as a commentator.
When reached by USA TODAY on Jan. 7, Coughlin said the allegations against him were “unfounded.”
“While I wish I could speak freely about the unfounded allegations levied against me, the SafeSport rules prevent me from doing so since the case remains pending,” he wrote in an email to USA TODAY. “I note only that the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation in no way constitutes a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to the allegation.”
The ISU issued a statement Saturday. “We are shocked and saddened by the unexpected passing of John Coughlin, Chair of the ISU Athletes Commission and member of the ISU Single & Pair Skating Technical Committee. In the name of the ISU family, we herewith want to share our heartfelt condolences and kindest thoughts with John’s family and friends in this time of sorrow.”
Coughlin won the U.S. pairs title in 2011 with Caitlin Yankowskas and in 2012 with Caydee Denney. He competed in two world championships, finishing sixth in 2011 and eighth in 2012.
SafeSport opened in 2017 with the aim to end all forms of abuse in sport. It has exclusive jurisdiction over allegations of sexual misconduct but also looks into other forms of abuse. SafeSport typically does not provide details of the nature of allegations until a case is resolved.