Speedskater Brigid “Bridie” Farrell, a Saratoga Springs native, has accused a former skating teammate of starting an inappropriate relationship with her in 1997, when she was 15.
The accusations leveled against Olympic medalist Andy Gabel, 48, were made during a radio interview aired over the weekend, when Farrell said they had repeated sexual contact over several months in Saratoga Springs, Lake Placid and Marquette, Mich. At the time, Gabel was in his early 30s.
Gabel has since released a statement to news outlets saying their relationship was inappropriate and represented poor judgment, but didn’t include sex. He has stepped down from leadership roles with the International Skating Union and the National Speedskating Hall of Fame.
Farrell, who occasionally returns to the Saratoga area, told WUWM in Milwaukee that she still feels the impact of that relationship. She didn’t feel comfortable talking about the relationship initially, but eventually came to grips with it after some “dark times,” she said.
“I’m here to try to change the culture of sport,” Farrell said as explanation for the recent announcement.
At the time, Farrell said, she was “starstruck” by the older Gabel, even though she knew the relationship was wrong.
Farrell was an elite-level short-track speedskater. She came close but fell short of making the U.S. Olympic team in 1998, 2002 and 2006. The abuse she alleges had nothing to do with failure to reach the Olympics, she said, but it led to depression and an eating disorder.
She has returned to speedskating, according to her Facebook page, and is training in Milwaukee. The WUWM website said she wants to make the Olympics as a long-track racer, even though she holds no ranking in the sport. Farrell skated recently in the AmCup Long Track Speedskating Final at the Utah Olympic Oval, where she set seasonal records.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Speedskating board held its regular monthly meeting by conference call Monday and was expected to discuss the allegations. The governing body released a statement reiterating it would look into the allegations made by Farrell.
“U.S. Speedskating will not tolerate abuse of any kind and we intend to investigate these claims, and any others that arise, thoroughly,” it said.