NEW YORK, United States - US bobsledder Aja Evans, who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics, has filed a lawsuit alleging she was sexually assaulted by a team doctor for a decade, according to multiple reports Thursday.
The Times Union newspaper of Albany, New York, and ESPN reported that Evans filed the lawsuit on Wednesday near the Lake Placid facility where she and other athletes trained for global competitions.
Evans filed the lawsuit against chiropractor Jonathan Wilhelm, his Pro Chiropractic clinic, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
Wilhelm strongly rejected the allegations with his lawyer calling them "unfounded claims".
Evans alleges that Wilhelm touched and groped her at times while treating her and took photos and videos of her while she was partially clothed at the Olympic training facility in Lake Placid and elsewhere from 2012 to 2022, the Times Union reported.
"The repeated molestation and sexual assault I suffered at the hands of John Wilhelm left me physically and emotionally damaged, to the point where I experience chronic anxiety and fell out of love with the sport of bobsledding," Evans said in a statement, per the paper.
The lawsuit claims that when she was hospitalized in December 2021 after a training accident in Germany, Evans awoke to Wilhelm touching her.
"Rather than being protected, believed and taken seriously, Ms. Evans was subjected to investigation and degradation by the USOPC and USA Bobsled governing bodies," the lawsuit said, according to the Times Union.
Wilhelm's attorney, Arizona-based Ryan Stevens, told ESPN in a statement that Wilhelm denied the claims and never committed the acts detailed in the lawsuit.
"Dr. Wilhelm wholeheartedly denies these baseless allegations," the statement said. "At no point did Dr. Wilhelm commit these heinous and disgusting acts that Ms. Evans now alleges started over a decade ago.
"Dr. Wilhelm has reputably served and protected professional athletes all over the world. Dr. Wilhelm looks forward to vetting these unfounded claims and will pursue all legal avenues to protect his professional reputation."
Evans said that she first met Wilhelm in 2012 for a hip injury and was asked inappropriate questions about her personal life, and touched in her genital area in a manner that made her recoil.
She said coaches and medical staff disregarded her complaints and when she spoke to teammates, they agreed Wilhelm would, regardless of the injury, "go for the adductor," a muscle collection in the pelvic area.
Evans said the concerns about Wilhelm's behavior became so great that in 2016 she and her teammates pooled their money to fly in a different medical provider during training sessions.
"I didn't feel like the USA bobsled team was taking what I was saying seriously, and it was becoming a distraction for me and my performance," Evans told ESPN.
"And so it felt like what was within my control was doing this with my teammates and just focusing on getting through the season."
Wilhelm is also being investigated by the US Center for SafeSport, ESPN reported.
He has worked with the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation since the 2012 World Cup and, according to the lawsuit, continues to treat Olympic athletes.
Nassar 'eerily similar'
Michelle Simpson Tuegel, Evans's lawyer, also represented more than two dozen women in civil cases filed against Larry Nassar, the former Olympic doctor for USA Gymnastics who was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting patients.
Simpson Tuegel told ESPN the Wilhelm and Nassar cases were "eerily similar," including the manner in which the doctors tried to be personable with patients during treatment.
"There was a lot of similarity with the way Larry Nassar operated," she told ESPN.
Evans was a brakewoman with pilot Jamie Greubel in 2014 when they took bronze in the two-woman event at Sochi.
Evans was banned from competition for two years last November after failing to submit a drug testing sample in March 2022. The lawsuit says she declined to fight the ban due to "exhaustion over the repeated abuse," according to the Times Union.
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