Paralympic gold medalist Robert Griswold “maliciously assaulted, groomed and sexually abused a younger, mentally challenged teammate,” alleges a civil lawsuit filed in Colorado on Friday.
He is said to have abused Parker Egbert, now 19, who has suffered from developmental delays and intellectual disability throughout his life that have made him “significantly more vulnerable to abuse,” during the Tokyo Paralympic Games and at the US Olympic & Paralympic Training Center (OPTC ) based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“This case is a horrific tragedy in which a young man who defied all odds to become a world-class Paralympic swimmer had his life shattered through rape and abuse when paired with a team member who was a violent sex offender “, the lawsuit says.
Directly because of Griswold’s “malicious acts” and “the repeated failures of USOPC (the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee) and SafeSport to carry out their duties,” the lawsuit states that Egbert suffered “severe physical injuries, pain and suffering, and extreme has suffered psychological injuries and emotional distress, most of which will likely continue for the rest of his life.”
Griswold had not responded to CNN’s request for comment at the time of publication.
When contacted by CNN, Egbert’s attorneys said they would speak to their client before testifying.
The lawsuit also alleges that USOPC and SafeSport — an independent non-profit organization dedicated to ending abuse and harassment of athletes — failed to “warn, supervise, and/or protect the plaintiff,” either willfully or negligent because they have not fulfilled their respective obligations.
“The allegations raised by the complaint filed today are extremely concerning and we take them very seriously,” the USOPC said in a statement to CNN.
“We have made the decision to place two employees on administrative leave and have also halted the work of several contractors at US Paralympics Swimming. We are also continuing our investigation into the allegations to help us establish the facts, and we commit to taking appropriate action.”
SafeSport and USA Swimming have not responded to CNN’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Griswold was temporarily banned from the US Center for SafeSport on August 23, 2022 for “allegations of misconduct” and placed on a database intended for sports abuse prevention and education.
The Colorado Springs Police Department had not responded to CNN’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Egbert was born with autism, didn’t speak until he was six, and “currently has the mental abilities of a five-year-old,” according to the lawsuit.
Swimming became a form of “playtime, therapy time,” his mother says in the lawsuit, and he found success in the pool and competed in three separate events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, held in August and September 2021.
According to the lawsuit, Griswold “made a concerted effort to ‘befriend’ at the June 2021 Paralympic Trials. [Egbert]constantly referring [Egbert] as his ‘little buddy’.”
During the Games, Griswold ensured that Egbert “always sat next to him on plane and bus rides and had unattended access to him for extended periods” as they shared a room in the Olympic Village, and “care was stepped up,” says it in suit.
“The USOPC observed Griswold’s conduct and allowed it to do so,” the lawsuit adds.
Griswold, who was born with cerebral palsy, won two gold medals at Tokyo 2020.
Another athlete, who has not been identified in the lawsuit, allegedly witnessed the abuse Egbert von Griswold suffered, according to the lawsuit, and he became so angry that he punched the wall of the room where the three athletes were.
In December of that year, Egbert won three gold medals at the US Paralympics Swimming National Championship and was invited to live and train at OPTC in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Egbert and Griswold became roommates there, which allowed the abuse to continue and intensify, the lawsuit says.
Egbert “refused to take a shower, where Griswold would rape and sexually abuse him,” the lawsuit states, and he began writing stories to escape, including one titled “Spookley and the Hurricane.”
The story was about a group of friends who were “brave” in defeating “a powerful hurricane called Hurricane Robert,” which Egbert called a “monster,” according to the lawsuit.
After his parents questioned Egbert about the story, he revealed Griswold’s abuse to them, but when they expressed their concern, “USOPC declined to act on the matter,” the lawsuit states.
As a result of the “acts and omissions” of Griswold, USOPC and SafeSport, the lawsuit states, Egbert had to “make the difficult decision to abandon his lifetime dream” of becoming a Paralympic swimmer.
The lawsuit further states that “Griswold has used his status in the Olympic and Paralympic swimming community to conduct a systematic pattern of abuse in which he seeks out and cares for vulnerable athletes, particularly underage and disabled Paralympic athletes who live and train with United.” State Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado.”
USOPC and SafeSport were aware of “credible allegations” of abuse against Griswold, the lawsuit states, “but conspired to cover up such allegations” because of his success as a Paralympic swimmer.