Leonard writes that when the coach accompanied him as a 15-year-old and another young fighter to a boxing event in Utica, N.Y., in 1971, he had the teenagers take a bath in a tub of hot water and Epsom salts while he sat on the other side of the bathroom. They suspected “something a bit inappropriate” was occurring but did not want to question a strong male authority figure.The coach is unnamed in the book, but is described as a "prominent Olympic boxing coach". The 55-year old Leonard says he was motivated to tell his story after seeing actor Todd Bridges admit on the Oprah show to being sexually abused as a child.
Several years later, Leonard describes sitting in a car in a deserted parking lot across from a recreation center, listening intently as the same coach, said to be in his late 40s, explained how much a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics would mean to his future.
He was flattered, filled with hope, as any young athlete would be. But he writes: “Before I knew it, he had unzipped my pants and put his hand, then mouth, on an area that has haunted me for life. I didn’t scream. I didn’t look at him. I just opened the door and ran.”
It's cynical to say that it's easier for Leonard to make this admission through a book that will make him some extra money. But I can't imagine any amount of money would erase whatever pain, shame and embarrassment he feels from having to discuss what may have happened to him. In recent years, women's gymnastics has come under fire for allegations of sexual misconduct and an ABC News report learned of a slew of swimming coaches who have been banned for similar issues. Additionally, his story could help the U.S. Olympic Committee root out other possible cases of coaching predators.
At a time when it feels athletes and sports executives are coming out on a daily basis, hopefully this sparks a discussion about a much more serious and relevant issue of sexuality in sports.