Former U.S. Dressage Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover Publishes Letter Seeking SafeSport Overhaul

Wellington, Fla. – June 19, 2020 – The announcement of the permanent ban of Robert ‘Bob’ McDonald, the husband of U.S. Technical Advisor of Dressage and chef d’équipe, Debbie McDonald, from the sports of equestrian and hockey by the U.S. Center of SafeSport, sparked concern within the industry regarding the investigative process of SafeSport.

Robert Dover

McDonald, 73, of Hailey, Idaho, received the ban based on the center’s ruling of sexual misconduct involving a minor, and has requested an independent arbitration.

Former Team Coach Robert Dover publicly spoke out this week in a letter to US Equestrian requesting an overhaul in the procedures of SafeSport.

Read  the letter to USEF from Athletes Advisory Group and six-time Olympian Robert Dover: 

“We support the ideals of the Center for SafeSport insofar as preventing abuse. Advocating for justice does not mean that you support abuse. In fact, just the opposite: It sends a clear signal that sport will be made and kept safe from bad actors, and that all disciplinary methods will be handled according to the highest standards — not the bare minimum.

We feel strongly that it is essential any group with the power that SafeSport has should:

1. Follow fair and impartial rules according to the laws of USA
2. Provide notice and share discovery confidentially with attorneys
3. Have oversight by a third party ( beyond an audit)

At this time, SafeSport meets none of these criteria.

SafeSport’s process violates US constitutional rights, because their single-investigator procedure is flawed and incomplete. The Center for SafeSport ill-advisedly adopted the single investigator model as their procedural blueprint based on its use during the Title IX university sexual abuse resolution.

This model has been subsequently discredited and found to violate the civil rights of both reporting parties and accused individuals. As a result, verdicts in cases resolved using these methods are being reversed.

It is our hope you are aware that the Department of Education has issued new Title IX guidelines, adding due process. You should also be aware that Federal courts are awarding millions of dollars in damages to be paid by universities and colleges in hundreds of wrongfully and inaccurately rendered decisions by university panels using tort law procedures.

Logic suggests that it is simply a matter of time before the USOPC, NGBs, and LAOs likewise experience such exposure to comparable damages.

Furthermore, we hope that upon seeing the similar pattern of flaws and inconsistent accuracy in SafeSport cases, the BOD in its wisdom would demand for all athletes a more equitable SafeSport process.

There currently are documented cases wherein the Center’s flawed and inaccurate investigations have allowed competitors to use untruthful SafeSport reports to remove stakeholders, coaches, and athletes from competition. This should never be accepted by any NGB or LAO.

We understand that Congressional mandate requires compliance with the Center for SafeSport’s rulings. What we don’t understood is why NGBs and LAOs believe that fighting for justice for their athletes is not in the NGBs’ best interest.

The undersigned athletes and coaches respectfully ask that you, the USEF Board members, act on our behalf to ask the USOPC to request that Congress overhaul SafeSport to make it a process of which all parties can expect the organization to treat them fairly even if the organization has no legal or constitutional obligation to do so, and a process we can all feel proud and support, confident that the Center for SafeSport’s rulings will be based on the utmost integrity and most thorough of investigations, with a threshold of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

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