PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When Tualatin police arrested Richard Fellers earlier this week for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl, it was the culmination of a months-long investigation that began with information provided by the US Center for SafeSport.
Fellers, 61, competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London in the equestrian competition. The Oregon City resident is a well-known competitor and horse trainer.
The sex abuse investigation included interview with witnesses in multiple states, which led to a determination he had a sexual relationship with the 17-year-old while he was her horse trainer. The abuse allegedly happened at her Portland apartment.
The US Center for SafeSport, a non-profit focused on ending all forms of abuse in sport, collaborates with law enforcement on report investigations.
Kelly Marriner-Smith, a lifelong equestrian who is not associated with this case, told KOIN 6 News SafeSport is meant to keep athletes safe.
“As an adult member of the United States Equestrian Federation part of our requirements when we agreed to the training and conduct with SafeSport is that we are all mandatory reporters,” Marriner-Smith said. “So if we are made aware of a situation that is inappropriate or unsafe we are mandatory reporters to USEF and the Center for SafeSport.”
SafeSport develops resources and policies to protect athletes from emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
“It’s never OK, it never was OK and it’s shocking to us in the community that SafeSport is in the forefront of our mind,” she said. “It’s hosted and spoke about in these competitions but these inappropriate relationships, so to speak, are still happening.”
Marriner-Smith, who owns and is a trainer at Creekside Show Stable, said equestrian sports “were often looked at as more as a hobby or horse show and now it’s looked upon as an Olympic sport, the sport of show jumping.”
She also said people in the sport “are feeling more empowered to speak up about situations that aren’t appropiate,” and the chance to anonymously report situations through SafeSport is helpful.
“None of these types of allegations are new,” she said. It’s just that “the climate of relationships between a coach and rider” is different now.
Fellers is in the Washington County Jail. He’s expected to be in court on July 7.