A former bobsledder filed a class action lawsuit against the national sports governing body on Wednesday, saying the organization has failed for decades to warn athletes or protect them from brain damage.
William Person, who represented the United States from 1999 to 2007, filed a lawsuit in California state court against USA Bobsled and Skeleton, the organization that oversees these two sports in the United States.
In the lawsuit, Person’s lawyers argued that the bobsleigh organization knew as early as 1983 that the sport could cause serious brain damage that could lead to significant and irreversible health problems, but did not properly share the information with his athletes or has not worked adequately to protect their health and safety.
The person and his lawyers have asked the court to certify a group of plaintiffs who will seek compensation from USA Bobsled and Skeleton. They demanded that this compensation include a fund that will cover the intensive medical follow-up of former athletes as well as “the establishment of a court-supervised compensation program for people who have already been diagnosed, treated and / or injured. (including death) by brain damage, including neurodegenerative and behavioral disorders and diseases.
A spokesperson for USA Bobsled and Skeleton said Wednesday afternoon that officials had just received the complaint and “were looking into the matter.”
In a statement released by his lawyer, Person said: “The number of sled athletes I have coached and competed with who are currently suffering from brain damage in our time in bobsleigh is incredible. People who were great competitors and athletes live with depression, dementia, and some commit suicide. “
The person is represented by Jason Luckasevic, a Pittsburgh attorney who was involved in some of the initial litigation against the NFL in connection with its treatment of players who were subsequently diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as by CTE. and severe traumatic brain injury. The litigation ultimately led to a billion dollar settlement with the league.
In March, Dr. Ann McKee, a leading neuropathologist and director of the CTE Center at Boston University, discovered that Pavle Jovanovic, a former Olympic bobsledder who committed suicide last year, had CTE McKee already found disease in the brains of dozens of deceased football players.
Jovanovic hanged himself in his family’s metalwork shop in central New Jersey in May 2020 after years of drug addiction, symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, such as uncontrollable tremors and mood disturbances . He was 43 years old.
Later that year, The New York Times ran a series of articles about former bobsleigh and skeleton athletes who suffered from similar symptoms. Jovanovic was the third North American elite bobsledder to kill himself since 2013. In 2017, Steven Holcomb, who piloted the American bobsleigh known as the “night train” to Olympic gold in 2010 , was found dead in Lake Placid, NY, of an apparent overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills.
In recent years, a growing number of current and retired boardsports athletes have reported chronically suffering from many of the same conditions that plague soccer players and other athletic athletes. of contact. They face constant headaches, increased sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises, forgetfulness, and psychological issues.
In a statement last year, Aron McGuire, CEO of USA Bobsled and Skeleton, said the organization “takes athlete safety very seriously. We recognize that there are inherent risks in all sports. We first focus on injury education and prevention, which includes brain damage.
Officials said the organization is using the latest science, technology and protocols to monitor the health of its athletes and is trying to connect with former sport participants.
“We are actively working to expand our alumni database and strengthen relationships with alumni,” said McGuire. “Our athletes matter to us well beyond their athletic careers. We want them to stay involved and ask for help if needed.