WELLINGTON, Fla.--Bob McDonald, the husband Debbie McDonald, an Olympic equestrian medalist and technical advisor to the U.S. national dressage team, has now also fallen victim to SafeSport, having been banned for life by the U.S. Center for SafeSport for sexual conduct involving minors.
McDonald's banning mirrors that of a number of other top trainers, including George Morris, all of whom have faced accusations from many decades ago almost impossible to disprove in front of SafeSport's biased arbitration panel.
Robert McDonald is an internationally renown equestrian trainer formerly based in Orange County, and he has vehemently denied these allegations and has published a statement concerning these charges.
The alleged sexual conduct with minors took place in more than one state and involves more than one claimant age 14 and under, according to a person familiar to the investigation.
McDonald, 73, who currently resides in Wellington, Fla., and Hailey, Idaho, said Friday that he “categorically” denies the allegations and will appeal the ban in arbitration.
McDonald was also placed on the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s permanently ineligible lists.
“THE U.S. Center for SafeSport has issued a lifetime ban of hunter/jumper equestrian trainer Robert ‘Bob’ McDonald for violating the SafeSport Code,” U.S. Equestrian said in a statement. “With this decision, Mr. McDonald is permanently prohibited from participating, in any capacity, in any event, program, activity, or competition authorized by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, USEF, or any affiliates of USEF.”
McDonald is the 10th member of U. Equestrian to be banned, suspended, temporarily suspended or had restrictions placed on them by the U. Center for SafeSport just since March 12.
On June 12, McDonald released a statement.
I want to begin by stating that I am humbled by the outpouring of support that Debbie and I have received during these past few days.
It would be impossible to deal with this matter without your warm kindness and I wanted to thank you all for it.
With that said, it is with great sadness that I have to release a statement such as this one, but as many of you already know, on June 10, the U.S. Center for SafeSport banned me from participating in the sport that has been my entire life over the last 50 years.
It is beyond heartbreaking to see the reputation that I have painstakingly built throughout my career be tarnished by an allegation of misconduct from 47 years ago.
Even more gut-wrenching is watching my loved ones being dragged through this as well.
It is a terrible reality that we are living in a time when allegations alone would lead to the imposition of such a harsh public sanction.
Unfortunately, the system in place does not allow for individuals to be given the opportunity to effectively defend any of the allegations prior to a ban, which is why I have requested for an independent arbitration on the matter.
It would be inappropriate of me to comment more other than to simply say that I categorically deny the allegations that have been made against me.
Throughout my 50-plus year career in the sport, I have always acted in a professional and respectful manner towards all individuals that I have come in contact with, which is why I am shocked at the allegations that were made.
While it is paramount for the sport to have a thoughtful and thorough avenue for our riders and trainers to address complaints and areas of concern, it is of equal importance that the process be fair and balanced.
That certainly has not been the case here. I am looking forward to the opportunity to present the facts and a fair defense at an independent arbitration.
I stand firm on the reputation I have built over half a century and am confident that I will be fully exonerated when the arbitration is complete.
Finally, I want to add that these are difficult and trying times for myself, Debbie, and our families.
We again would like to thank everyone who has reached out with kindness, generosity, compassion, and grace.
Your support has carried us the last couple of days and will continue to do so.