U.S. Ski & Snowboard has opened an investigation into allegations of a toxic environment on the American Snowboard team, based on claims by former athlete Callan Chythlook-Sifsof of sexual harassment levied against the team’s head coach, Peter Foley, and overt racism from at least one athlete currently on the team.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, former U.S. Snowboard member and Olympian Chythlook-Sifsof accused snowboarder Hagen Kearney of racism and the repeated use of the N-word when the two were teammates in 2014.
In addition, Chythlook-Sifsof, now 32, alleged Foley made inappropriate sexual comments to her on at least one occasion when she was a minor. She further accused Foley of photographing naked female athletes; Outsports has received a similar allegation from another woman.
Both Foley and Kearney are representing the United States at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Neither Foley nor Kearney’s representatives returned a request for comment.
Foley told Newsweek he is “surprised by the allegations,” and that he “vehemently” denies the allegations. Kearney said in an Instagram post that he did use the N-word, but claimed it was not repeatedly.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard told Outsports they are aware of the claims and have launched an investigation.
“U.S. Ski & Snowboard has been made aware of the recent allegations via a social media post,” spokesperson Annie Fast told Outsports. “The behaviors detailed have no place in our sport or on our teams. We take accusations like this seriously and it is being investigated.”
In addition, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee told Chythlook-Sifsof in an email that they have reported her allegations to the United States Center for SafeSport.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, Chythlook-Sifsof said that Kearney often used the N-word when they were teammates in 2014, and that she repeatedly asked him to stop.
Chythlook-Sifsof said she complained to the coaches one night after his alleged repeated use of the word, and that they reportedly did speak to Kearney about the alleged incident. According to Chythlook-Sifsof, that was the last time she traveled with the team as an athlete.
Chythlook-Sifsof was the first indigenous Alaskan to represent the United States at an Olympic Games, competing in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. She came out publicly in 2014.
In addition, Chythlook-Sifsof also claims that when she was 17, Foley — the team’s head coach — made at least one sexually explicit comment to her.
Foley has been the head coach of the U.S. Snowboard team since the team was founded in 1994, and he was Chythlook-Sifsof’s head coach on the national team at the time of the alleged incident. Foley is listed on Kearney’s Olympics bio as his coach.
“Since posting that I’ve had numerous female skiers and snowboarders reach out to say they have a similar story,” Chythlook-Sifsof said.
On Sunday night her post was deleted from Instagram. According to the message posted by Chythlook-Sifsof, and in a moment of irony, she says Instagram removed the post because they deemed it “bullying or harassment.”
Chythlook-Sifsof reposted the allegations to Instagram on Monday, and she says Instagram removed that post claiming it violated “guidelines on nudity or sexual activity.” That post was reinstated on Tuesday.
“It was all-consuming,” she said about her time on the team. “I had to put on armor. I’m not being dramatic. I had to put on armor and mentally prepare to be around those people.”
After posting the allegations on Instagram, Chythlook-Sifsof says she received a message from a male snowboarder representing the United States in Beijing, reprimanding her for the timing of her post.
“This is so sad to see that you would do something like this Callan I hope you take it down,” the athlete said in the message. “None of us deserve you to do sometime [sic] this to our team before this hugely important moment for all of us.”
Kearney finished 17th in men’s snowboard cross on Wednesday at these Winter Olympics. He will compete in the mixed-team snowboard cross this weekend.
On Instagram, Chythlook-Sifsof said she is coming forward now because she “cannot watch another Olympic Games without saying this publicly.”
She has been working as a professional snowboard coach for the last few years. Recently two of the snowboarders she has worked with have been developmental athletes on the World Cup team run by Foley, she said.
Chythlook-Sifsof said she has previously told “select people” about the alleged incidents.
“I was not a quiet little girl,” she said. “I was outspoken and I called out grown men when they said racist things. It was hard. I had massive fights with white men who said things that were toxic and harmful.”
In an interview with Outsports in 2020, Chythlook-Sifsof said that issues of diversity and inclusion are important to her. She also said that she had experienced racism in her sport.
“For me race is kind of a glaringly big issue I’ve always had to face,” she said at the time. “One of the bigger issues in my life has been my experience with being a person of color especially in an all white industry with skiing and snowboarding.”