Shaun White has issued an apology in the wake of labelling sexual assault allegations against him as “gossip”, with the three-time Winter Olympic champion admitting that it was a “poor choice of words”.
The 31-year-old stormed to victory in the men’s snowboard halfpipe final, with his third and final run beating Japan’s rising star Ayumu Hirano to regain the gold medal that he lost at Sochi 2014.
But the victory has been overshadowed by the re-emergence of a sexual misconduct lawsuit that was filed against the professional snowboarder in August 2016 by the female former drummer in his rock band Bad Things, Lena Zawaideh, who claimed the extreme sports star had “repeatedly sexually harassed her and forced his authoritarian management style on her for over seven years.”
White’s lawyer has previously claimed that the lawsuit lacked merit, and both White and Ms Zawaideh reached an out-of-court settlement in May 2017. However, at the time of the allegations, White labelled them “bogus”, and his comments on Tuesday morning after winning gold did not help matters.
"I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,” White said when asked about the allegations and if they would tarnish his reputation. "I don't think so."
The journalist who asked White about the incident then attempted to follow-up with another question, but the International Olympic Committee’s interview moderator immediately interrupted to tell them to ask a question relating to the Winter Olympics or pass the microphone onto the next journalist.
The three-time Olympic gold medallist, and most successful snowboarder in Olympic history, was criticised for labelling such a serious matter as gossip, but he later appeared on NBC’s Today Show to issue an apology.
“I’m truly sorry that I chose the word gossip, it was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today and I’m just truly sorry,” White said.
“I was just so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.
“It’s amazing how life works in twists and turns and lessons learned so every experience in my live I feel has taught me a lesson and I feel a more changed person than when I was younger, and I’m proud of who I am today.”
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