The suspension of skipper Kevin Escoffier, accused of sexual violence, canceled by the French Sailing Federation

The French Sailing Federation (FFV) had fifteen days to make a decision

The suspension of skipper Kevin Escoffier, accused of sexual violence, canceled by the French Sailing Federation

The French Sailing Federation (FFV) had fifteen days to make a decision. It took half as much. The body announced, Friday March 22, in a press release, the cancellation of the sanction imposed on skipper Kévin Escoffier – suspended after accusations of sexual violence –, due to a “procedural defect”, raised by a conciliator of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNSOF) a week earlier.

“The [Federation] notes that the conciliator considers that the decision of the Federal Appeal Council of the FFV is tainted by a procedural defect because the disciplinary appeal body is accused of not having sufficiently guaranteed the principle of contradictory,” she writes.

In his opinion, delivered Thursday March 15, the CNOSF conciliator – referred to by the defense of the French skipper – considered that the disciplinary body of the federation had not “sufficiently guaranteed the principle of adversarial proceedings”, in particular due to the absence of confrontation between the navigator and his accusers. What the FFV assumes to have “voluntarily ruled out”, arguing for the need to “protect people who had the courage to make a report”.

Accused of “inappropriate behavior” and sexual assault on a young woman during a stopover in the stage race The Ocean Race, in June 2023 in the United States, the Saint-Malo skipper was sentenced to eighteen months at the end of October 2023. suspension from all competition, five years suspended suspension of sports license and ten years of ineligibility in the Federation bodies. A sanction taken by the national disciplinary commission of the FFV.

Ousted from the Holcim-PRB team with which he was aiming for a victory in the Vendée Globe – a solo round-the-world race, on 18m monohulls – which will start on November 10, 2024, the Breton skipper had appealed the decision. And his lawyer had contacted the CNOSF, whose conciliator delivered his opinion in mid-March, giving the FFV fifteen days to review its copy.

A legal investigation in progress

On Friday, the body governing French sailing accepted this conciliation proposal, “even if it regrets that a procedural defect would lead to the cancellation of the disciplinary sanction imposed on Kevin Escoffier”. While welcoming that the conciliator “considers, taking into account the body of evidence brought to his attention, that the FFV was justified in initiating disciplinary proceedings. »

This decision puts an end to the disciplinary procedure initiated against the navigator, because the Federation has decided not to restart it. Firstly in order to avoid having to organize a confrontation between Escoffier and the people who transmitted a report – a decision “perfectly assumed and supported by the FFV”, specifies the press release, which recalls that the body relies “ on the directives of the Ministry of Sports […] on this subject”. But also to “not contribute, by accepting the establishment of this confrontation, to the growing and worrying confusion between the role of a delegated sports federation, via its disciplinary power, and the role of the State, by means of the police and justice, via its judicial power. »

If Kevin Escoffier's suspension is lifted, the former shipwreck of the 2020 Vendée Globe – he had jumped into his life raft off the Cape of Good Hope, before being rescued at the last minute by another competitor, Jean Le Cam – is not yet out of the woods. The Paris public prosecutor's office opened a judicial investigation in July, which has since been entrusted to the Lorient police station (Morbihan). And in its press release, the FFV insists on its “desire for the case to now be handled within the framework of the current criminal procedure which is based in particular” on the complaints of the victims.