On December 4, Christine Chen wrote a Medium post that would change everything. She began thusly: “This has been on my mind for a long time.”
The post would go on to detail her experiences, as well as corroborations through the accounts of others, with a Badminton coach named Nick Jinadasa. According to Chen, Jinadasa had been inappropriate with numerous underage female athletes: “Many of you know Nicholas (Nick) Jinadasa as a coach and manager at the Bellevue Badminton Club (BBC). I know him as someone who takes advantage of his position as a coach to sexually harass young girls who train at BBC.”
Jinadasa trained badminton players at Bellevue Badminton Club, a Seattle club wherein young athletes train to compete in tournaments. Often, the athletes are Olympic hopefuls. According to the Seattle Times, he was released from his position last week. An ongoing investigation now rages on; additional stories regarding Jinadasa’s conduct have been brought to the attention of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a commission formed in 2017 during U.S.A. Gymnastics’ Larry Nassar scandal.
According to Chen. Jinadasa was looked at as someone who could help athletes with occasional physical problems, often working as an impromptu massage therapist. What Chen knew in her time being coached by Jinadasa was that he had a penchant for inappropriate comments and actions, to varying degrees of seriousness.
“While I was a student at BBC, Nick would make inappropriate comments to girls like ‘whoa those are really tiny shorts you’re wearing,’ or ‘I don’t like Indian girls’ calves. They’re too thin. I like Asian girls’ calves because they’re more muscular, like yours.'”
Jinadasa was allegedly caught staring at the young girls’ bodies often; Chen also recounts a story in which he brought a 16-year old girl to his home alone. He allegedly pointed at his bed and said “this is where the magic happens.” He then allegedly brought her to his living room and put his arm around her while watching television; the girl reportedly became immobile from shock.
But what disturbed Chen and led her to expose Jinadasa was the amount of stories she began to hear after leaving the program, including girls receiving “massages” from Jinadasa. “After hearing about this happening to 3 of the girls I talked with, I knew I couldn’t keep silent. In December of 2017, I filed an official report to US SafeSport because I felt that it was my responsibility. However, it’s been one year now without any results, and much of the badminton community is still in the dark about this.”
One story, according to the Seattle Times, came from an athlete who recalled having numerous inappropriate interactions with Jinadasa. “During the first massage, she said Jinadasa, now 33, asked her to remove her bra to make the massage easier… She said she declined. Another time, the girl said he invited her for a massage at his home. Again, she said no. The last time he gave a massage, she said, she was lying on her back and he massaged up her leg to her hip, putting his fingers under her underwear. She objected, she said, and he backed off.”
On December 12, Nick Jinadasa relayed his own account of events in a Blogspot article, accepting certain wrongdoing: “My actions were undoubtably unprofessional. I did not grasp the impact of what I said and did could and would have on my students. I was both stubborn and lacked self-esteem and awareness.”
However, Jinadasa also argues that he had no intentions of making advances towards the young athletes; rather, he was simply trying to be friendly with them and to help them as athletes through his knowledge of his own athletic experience. A former gold medalist at a 2002 Pan-Am tournament, Jinadasa says he was often the person referred to when an athlete was dealing with injuries — athletes of both genders, moreover. He also says his inappropriate comments were in an effort to be friends with them, to establish a camaraderie with the athletes which he saw the importance of after being distant with his coaches in his own athletic career.
“I tried to be a coach, a friend, a counselor, a physical therapist, a physical trainer, and massage therapist for the kids. I was stubborn and arrogant in thinking that it was my place to play any of those roles beyond being a coach. I truly regret any suffering I caused by trying to be more than what I was qualified for.”
Christine Chen spoke with NextShark after Jinadasa’s apology came to light.
“Yes, I read Nick’s statement a couple hours after it was released,” said Chen. “My general impressions: I can believe that he meant no ill will, but he admits that he knew his behavior was unprofessional and still continued doing those behaviors for many years. Perhaps he never meant to hurt anyone by his actions, but he was aware the whole time that he was interacting with vulnerable children. Therefore, I still maintain my view that he should not be allowed to work with children anymore.”
She also notes that in his response, Jinadasa alleges he never invited people over alone; however, Chen said she’s spoken to four girls who said otherwise — that they were invited to come over alone.
In another part of the statement, Jinadasa says this to Chen’s family: “I would also like to apologize to Christine Chen and her family, for the way I handled your leaving our program 7 years ago…” Chen explained the period Jinadasa was referring to:
“I believe he was apologizing for the unprofessional way he treated my family, which caused us to leave the program in 2012. My sister and I started taking additional private lessons at another club in 2012 on top of our regular group training at BBC. This made Nick unhappy and he started treating my family very rudely. It got to the point that my younger sister hated training at BBC with him and wanted to leave. That caused us to leave BBC entirely. I am not sure why he included that in his public apology statement since it does not relate to the sexual harassment claims.”
Chen says BBC sent out an email to members on December 6 informing them of Jinadasa’s termination. She believes USA Badminton should have done something much sooner:
“I was expecting Nick to be at least suspended from coaching at tournaments during the investigation. I also wish that they could have provided some more resources or support for the female athletes while we were waiting for the investigation. It would have been nice to be connected to the USA Badminton Athletes Advisory council right after my initial report. They only reached out to me after hearing the news from my Medium article and they have been extremely helpful and supportive ever since.”
According to the Seattle Times, Chen made her report about Jinadasa to the CEO of USA Badminton on December 2017. They also note that USA Badminton has had “a tumultuous year,” in which numerous coaches have been fired due to similar allegations. When the organization was audited, they were shown as not following crucial SafeSport processes. These processes include background checks (“25 individuals… should have had background checks, auditors found 11 did not have current background checks”) and complaint training of hired individuals (“More than half of those examined didn’t have records showing complaint training on SafeSport matters.”)
In the wake of the Larry Nassar allegations, the U.S. Olympic Committee effected a “nuclear option,” decertifying the organization that has “overseen and financially supported gymnastics, one of the most popular Olympic events in America, since 1963,” according to The Atlantic. The ways in which Olympic sports see sexual misconduct, much like society, is changing by fire. But the removal of exiled figures like Jinadasa, who continues to proclaim his innocence, is merely a step. Much of what Jinadasa indicated in his post troubled Christine Chen, not only in regards to his actions, but the actions of the system as a whole.
“He implied that his fellow coaches referred children to Nick for massages and injury treatment even though he wasn’t a certified therapist. That is very concerning to me, and makes me question why the club and other staff members did not notice and stop Nick’s unprofessional behavior.”
Meanwhile, athletes affected by his actions, both the alleged and admitted ones, remain scarred. “Under coach Nick, I lost the confidence that I had spent years building,” says an athlete Chen only referred to in her article as “Girl C.” “His sexism was evident in the way that he degraded women… He made me loathe going to training as I often felt so inferior that I was constantly on the brink of tears.”
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