Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

David Pichler

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

David Pichler

Article excerpt

The openly gay national champion diver can't break free from a fight with his former coach

Eight-time national diving champion David Pichler plunged into a whirlpool of controversy two years ago when he accused his former coach Ron O'Brien of systematically harassing him and his boyfriend, Steven Guiffre.

Having just made the 1996 Olympic team, Pichler took to the mike at a news conference and charged that O'Brien, the man who coached Greg Louganis to Olympic fame, was guilty of more than the typical unsportsmanlike conduct. According to Pichler, O'Brien and his son, Tim, had employed various methods of verbal and physical intimidation to unsettle Pichler and undermine his burgeoning career--just to get back at him for leaving the O'Brien camp in 1995.

Shortly thereafter stories began to appear in newspapers that Pichler was being abused by his boyfriend. Afraid of what officials might do, Pichler waited until after the Atlanta Games to defend Guiffre--whom he still calls "the best thing that ever happened to me"--and accuse the O'Briens of fabricating the abuse story and planting it in the media.

The Advocate has visited Pichler's stow twice, the first time as part of a January 1997 coming-out profile of diver Patrick Jeffrey, who now serves as Pichler's coach. In August of that year The Advocate returned to the stow, having a skeptical Louganis, a friend of the O'Briens, interview Pichler.

A year later, Pichler says, the harassment is continuing, with help from U.S. Diving--the sport's governing body--which is headed by Todd Smith, a long-time associate of Ron O'Brien, who, coincidentally, serves as the group's technical director. Calls placed to both Smith and O'Brien for this article were not returned.

"They play little games; it's just too many things too often," Pichler says. A few months ago he threatened to sue U.S. Diving to assure that his monthly stipend--a regular fee paid to most Olympic-level athletes to help with training costs--is delivered on time. Furthermore, Pichler contends that the group has failed to provide crucial information to him about training camps or the steps necessary to apply for certain international diving competitions. …

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