Woman files claims against team chiropractor who worked with her in Lake Placid
By H. Rose Schneider, Times Union
An Olympic bobsledder has filed a lawsuit against a team chiropractor, alleging a decade of sexual abuse.
Aja Evans filed the complaint Wednesday against chiropractor John Wilhelm, his employer Pro Chiropractic, the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
Filing through the New York Survivors Act, Evans is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
“The repeated molestation and sexual assault I suffered at the hands of John Wilhelm left me physically and emotionally damaged, to the point where I experience chronic anxiety and fell out of love with the sport of bobsledding,” Evans said in a statement Thursday.
Evans, who was named as an alternate for the 2022 USA Bobsled Team, alleges in the suit Wilhelm repeatedly touched and groped her while she was being treated by him and took photos and made videos of her partially clothed at the Olympic training facility in Lake Placid and other locations between 2012 and 2022. The lawsuit says that when she was hospitalized following an accident while training in December 2021 in Germany, she woke up to Wilhelm touching her.
“Rather than being protected, believed, and taken seriously, Ms. Evans was subjected to investigation and degradation by the USOPC and USA Bobsled governing bodies,” the lawsuit states.
Wilhelm continues to treat Olympic athletes, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also alleges the Olympic committee and USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation protected and enabled Wilhelm, noting the previous sexual abuse conviction of former Olympic physician Larry Nassar.
Wilhelm could not be reached for comment at his Montana-based office on Thursday. Ryan Stevens, an Arizona attorney who represents Wilhelm in another matter, released a statement saying Wilhelm “wholeheartedly denies the detestable claims against him.
The efforts of Ms. Evans’ lawyer to publicly compare Dr. Wilhelm to Larry Nassar is disgraceful and defamatory, especially at this very early stage, before Dr. Wilhelm has had any opportunity to file his answer to the lawsuit.”
Evans earned Olympic bronze in 2014 and placed fifth in 2018. She was banned from competing for two years after not submitting a drug-testing sample in 2022, which the lawsuit alleges she declined to fight due to “exhaustion over the repeated abuse.”
“The mishandling of the Nassar abuse made clear that these bodies value performance over protection, and medals over mental health and well-being of individual athletes,” the lawsuit says.
In a prepared statement, USA Bobsled and Skeleton said: “While we are unable to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit or any ongoing investigations, USABS condemns sexual misconduct. These types of matters fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Center for SafeSport and law enforcement. USABS is fully supportive and cooperative of all investigations conducted by SafeSport. USABS remains committed to promoting a safe and respectful environment for all athletes, coaches, staff and volunteers.”