A decorated California equestrian died in an apparent suicide — just months after he was permanently banned from the sport over allegations of child sex abuse, according to a report.
Robert Gage, who was a three-time World Cup Grand Prix champion, killed himself Wednesday at his Fallbrook home, USA Today reported.
His death comes after he was banned for life from equestrian competitions by the US Center for SafeSport, an organization that investigates bullying, physical and sexual abuse in sports.
The organization determined in February that Gage engaged in sexual misconduct with “a number of minors,” according to a Safesport spokesman.
“Permanent ineligibility is the harshest sanction the Center can impose and is reserved for the most egregious offenses,” spokesman Dan Hill told USA Today. “The sanction issued here was implemented following an exhaustive investigation.”
Gage got his start in the equestrian world by training with Show Jumping Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Williams. He became known in the equestrian community as a “speed demon” as he won titles in the Grand Prix ring, according to Phelps Sports.
Friends said the longtime rider, who was in his 60s, had been distraught over the allegations against him.
“[Gage] was fighting SafeSport for allegations against him back in the late ’70s, early ’80s,” friend Emily Karp told USA Today. “It was very depressing to him, and it was really wearing him down, especially on social media. It was like cyberbullying. A lot of people didn’t know the whole story and didn’t know him. It was pretty devastating to him.”
His death comes six months after a former US figure-skating champion died by suicide following a US Center for SafeSport investigation. John Coughlin, 33, hanged himself Jan. 18 at a Kansas City home a day after he was suspended over allegations of abuse.