Thursday, September 21, 2023
Aja Evans, a renowned bobsled medalist, has filed a lawsuit in a New York state court, alleging sexual assault during multiple treatment sessions by a chiropractor who had long been a part of Team USA's medical staff.
Following Aja Evans's complaint, Dr Jonathan Wilhelm, the chiropractor, is named as a defendant, along with his clinic, Wilhelm's Pro Chiropractic, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, and the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
The lawsuit, filed in Essex County near the Lake Placid training facility where Aja Evans and her teammates prepared for international competitions, has raised serious allegations against Dr Wilhelm.
The lawsuit claims that Evans first encountered Dr Wilhelm in 2012 while seeking treatment for a hip injury. During the treatment session, she alleges that Dr Wilhelm asked inappropriate personal questions and touched her genital area in a manner that made her uncomfortable.
The lawsuit further states that Dr Wilhelm "touched and groped Ms Evans' genitals and body in contravention of any applicable medical standards."
Evans and her teammates reported Dr Wilhelm's behaviour to coaches and officials within USA Bobsled and Skeleton after he recorded videos and took photos of them while they were partially undressed during treatment sessions and before competitions.
According to Evans, her concerns were often disregarded by the team's coaching and medical staff.
In response to the lawsuit, Dr Wilhelm denied the allegations through a statement released by his attorney, Ryan Stevens, and expressed his intention to vigorously defend his professional reputation.
Dr Wilhelm is currently under investigation by the US Center for SafeSport, prompted by concerns raised by another athlete about his conduct during treatment sessions.
Notably, Evans' lawsuit comes at a time when there has been scrutiny of the hiring practices and culture within bobsledding and skeleton sports in the United States.
An internal investigation by the law firm ArentFox Schiff found evidence of a "toxic culture" within the sport and racial bias perceived by athletes of colour.
As a Black athlete, Evans felt marginalised and faced challenges in raising concerns about her experiences with Dr Wilhelm.
Evans, whose journey from Chicago's South Side led her to win a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics, had previously been banned from bobsledding for two years for not submitting a drug-testing sample during an out-of-competition test in March 2022.
She expressed her acceptance of the sanction at the time and her focus on health and well-being.
Currently residing in Atlanta, Evans has not ruled out a return to the sport following her suspension, and her lawsuit sheds light on the need for addressing issues of misconduct, safety, and culture within sports organisations.