Water polo’s national governing body did everything it was required to do following allegations of sexual misconduct by a former coach, its CEO said Wednesday in response to another lawsuit against the organization filed last week.
An 18-year-old Orange County water polo player filed a lawsuit Friday against USA Water Polo, alleging she was 14 to 16 years old when she was sexually assaulted by Barham Hojreh, a coach with the Los Alamitos-based International Water Polo Club and a member of USA Water Polo.
The plaintiff’s attorneys said she is the 11th Orange County player to sue USA Water Polo alleging abuse at the hands of Hojreh.
“USA Water Polo condemns, and has zero tolerance for, sexual misconduct,” CEO Chris Ramsey said.
“Following the initial reports regarding the alleged conduct of International Water Polo Club athletes, USA Water Polo ensured that reports were made to local law enforcement and the US Center for SafeSport, which, within the Olympic movement, has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. We decline to try the litigation involving Mr. Ohjreh in the media, and we are confident that the facts will demonstrate USA Water Polo acted promptly, legally, and responsibly regarding these matters.”
The lawsuit alleges USA Water Polo had received complaints Hojreh was coaching his players to sexually assault players on other teams during competitions, which included groping female competitors.
Attorneys allege that while the complaints were forwarded to the U.S. Center for SafeSport they failed to report them to law enforcement or child protective services despite being required to under state law.
“The abuse that occurred is amongst the most insidious of behavior by a coach,” said attorney Morgan Stewart.
“Hojreh is alleged to have committed sexual assaults as a method of `training his athletes,’ who in turn thought such behavior was acceptable as part of competition. Hojreh’s actions effectively brainwashed these girls into accepting the normalcy of sexual assault in sports.”
Hojreh is awaiting trial on charges of sexual battery, lewd acts on a child and sexual penetration.
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