Official's sexual relationship with 16-year-old skater draws scrutiny
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SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports' Rachel Axon discusses Senate subcommittee hearing where former athletes criticized the national governing bodies for their sport as well as the USOC and others for failing to prevent and stop sexual abuse. USA TODAY Sports

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A male U.S. Figure Skating official who was suspended in 2010 for “inappropriate and unethical conduct,” which three people with direct knowledge of the situation say stemmed from a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old male skater, is scheduled to officiate at a sanctioned USFS competition involving hundreds of young skaters in Dallas this weekend.

Christopher Pottenger, 31, is a former skater and current coach and official who was suspended for six months on May 1, 2010, by the Professional Skaters Association, then placed on probation for an additional 24 months by the PSA, the sport’s coaches organization.

He is currently being investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport due to the relationship, according to one of the people who also has direct knowledge of the investigation. The three people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

More: Coach suspended nearly two decades after U.S. Figure Skating dismissed abuse allegations

More: Michigan State is a cesspool of abuse and indifference appears bottomless

Pottenger is scheduled to work as a technical specialist or assistant technical specialist 16 times Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Skate Dallas, an important regional skating competition. 

In a telephone interview last month, Pottenger confirmed that he had a relationship with a skater while he was coaching in Newark, Del., nearly a decade ago.

“I was a coach dating a skater,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “I was never his coach and never gave him a lesson.”

Asked how old the skater was, Pottenger said, “I don’t recall that right now. I don’t recall that. I remember reviewing all the laws.”

Asked if he ever had a relationship with someone under 18, Pottenger replied, “I think that’s the end of my statement.”

The skater was 16 years old, according to the three people. USA TODAY Sports is not identifying the skater given his age at the time of the relationship.

In Delaware, a 16- or 17-year-old can legally consent to sex with a partner under the age of 30. Pottenger was 22 at the time of his relationship with the skater.

When asked for a comment on Wednesday, Pottenger said through his lawyer: "This was a consensual relationship that took place nine years ago and was in compliance with all laws."

USFS spokeswoman Barb Reichert said the organization “was just made aware of this allegation” and had no comment at this time.

SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said he would not confirm if the center is investigating Pottenger and would not have any additional comment.  

Pottenger was suspended by the PSA’s Committee on Professional Standards for “violations of the Code of Ethics” in a finding dated April 19, 2010, a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.

The document does not reference Pottenger's relationship with the skater but says he was found to have violated two rules of the PSA’s code of ethics:

"Members of the Professional Skaters Association shall at all times exercise the greatest care and discretion in their relationships with other members, pupils and pupils of other members.”

And, “A member shall at all times avoid conflicts of interest which can be considered to exist at any time when the actions of the member for his or her self or on behalf of a skater would involve the obtaining of an improper advantage.”

Jimmie Santee, PSA executive director, told USA TODAY Sports Wednesday of his organization’s 2010 suspension of Pottenger: "People should always be held accountable for their actions. In our case, there was a process and there was a finding and he was punished. We didn’t have anything in our rules and procedures to do anything different. But it is a really serious subject and I’m glad it’s being looked into again. We have to figure out a way to stop this.”

Pottenger, who competed as a pairs skater more than a decade ago, currently is skating manager of The Rinks Anaheim Ice in Southern California, where he is in contact with dozens of young skaters a day. As a technical specialist at competitions, he identifies the elements the skater performs in real time; for instance, the type of spin and the level of difficulty of that element based on published criteria.

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