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Sugar Ray Leonard Book: Coach Sexually Abused Me

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on May 19, 2011 6:43 AM

Former champ Sugar Ray Leonard is boxing royalty, but sex abuse by a former coach marred his childhood. News of the coach's abuse was brought to light in Leonard's new autobiography, "The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring."

According to his own account, the champion boxing star, 55, said that he was abused twice by an unnamed coach. The first time was when he was only 15, when he went to a boxing event in Utica, New York. The second time was several years later, when the same coach took advantage of him after filling talking up what winning an Olympic gold medal would do for his career.

Most of Leonard's close friends and colleagues were shocked by the news. They had heard about Leonard's problems with drug and alcohol, but this is the first time that Leonard spoke about the abuse, reports The New York Times.

Unfortunately, stories about coach abuse of their sports stars are not uncommon. An ABC News investigation revealed that about 36 swimming coaches were barred by USA Swimming after allegations of sexual abuse, including taping and fondling their young athletes.

Sexual abuse of athletes can oftentimes occur because the coach is in a position of power over the athlete. Even worse is that athletes may not feel that they can report the abuse - especially young athletes, who feel like their future in the sport relies on a good connection with the coach.

For child athletes, knowing the symptoms of possible abuse can help alert parents to abuse, such as nightmares, changes in appetite, or refusal to change in front of others or participate in physical education activities. Many states have mandatory reporting laws requiring individuals to report suspected child abuse.

Sugar Ray Leonard's sex abuse story took him years to tell. But, according to Leonard, revealing the truth about the coach's abuse was essential to be "free," reports The New York Times. Hopefully, Leonard's bravery in the face of such a difficult and painful personal story can help others find that same freedom.

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