World champion jiu-jitsu scholarship is accused of covering up cases of sexual abuse

Roberto Cyborg (front): fan of the myth in trouble in the US

He gave the story in the New York Times of Roberto Abreu, “Cyborg”, world jiu-jitsu champion accused of covering up cases of sexual abuse in his network of gyms in the United States.

Cyborg, sports star, built an empire. “In March 2018, a 31-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu teacher was arrested at an academy in Naples, Florida. He was accused three times of sexual assault against a 16-year-old girl who was his student and a close friend of the family. Today, the unsolved case and other allegations of sexual misconduct are shaking the sport and persecuting one of its most powerful figures, Roberto Abreu,” says the Times.

“He was the longtime teacher and close friend of the man accused of assaulting the 16-year-old girl. Many in the jiu-jitsu community claim that Abreu could have used his influence to expose and denounce his friend’s sexual misconduct, but instead he downplayed it and did not provide adequate support to the victim.”

What the Times doesn’t tell us is that Abreu is a convinced Pocketnarista, adept in the belief that “a good bandit is a dead bandit”.

In 2018, he came out of the closet on Instagram in a post in which he posed with a “Make Brazil Great Again” t-shirt.

“Now is the time for the good guys to get up. After all, as the myth says, the soldier who goes to war and is afraid of dying is a coward. Let’s go up!! Our flag is and always will be green and yellow. Count on me Captain!”, he wrote.

I reproduce some excerpts from the article:

In the case of Naples, Abreu, 40, a renowned fighter known as Cyborg and owner of an organization called Fight Sports, was harshly criticized for ignoring the victim and supporting the accused, Marcel Gonçalves, and even receiving him at a gym. Fight Sports after he was arrested. Gonçalves and Abreu are from the same region of Brazil, and Abreu is the godfather of Gonçalves’ son.

In August, a prominent jiu-jitsu figure published allegations of sexual misconduct involving half a dozen Fight Sports coaches and competitors. In interviews with The New York Times, some victims and witnesses described cases in which, according to them, Abreu refuted the allegation of attempted sexual assault and ignored or tried to pressure victims or those who expressed concern. Abreu faces no charges of sexual misconduct and told The Times that he never dismissed the victims’ concerns or tried to intimidate anyone.

But in an Instagram statement on August 13, Abreu acknowledged some mistakes. He wrote: “To the victims and their families, I regret my inadequate treatment, lack of preparation and lack of adequate leadership to deal with the horrible experience they went through.” Abreu wrote that, in trying to protect his godson, he “drastically failed” to address the teenage victim of Gonçalves “in an adequate, public and swift manner”. (…)

Responding to questions from The Times, Abreu said his organization was instituting policies to prevent inappropriate sexual behavior in the future, including sexual harassment training for all coaches and staff. Allegations of sexual assault by Fight Sports-affiliated fighters and instructors underscore the failure of many global organizations to protect young women who play sports.

This year alone, scandals involving sexual or psychological abuse have erupted in basketball, water polo, synchronized swimming, fencing, soccer and even dragon boat racing. Jiu-jitsu complaints follow a pattern in which senior officials and coaches, operating with little oversight, are accused of trying to protect the interests of the sport rather than the victims. (…)

The way Abreu dealt with the controversy over sexual abuse was widely discussed on social networks and in online publications such as the “Jiu-Jitsu Times”, but is only now receiving attention in the mainstream media. Recently, Abreu contacted the Florida teenager in the Gonçalves case and apologized. For her, the text message—the first contact Abreu had made in three years—was insufficient, it was too late.

“I think it’s someone who hides behind a black belt. Anyone who has morals, anyone who has a decent conscience, should know what is right and wrong – said the teenager about Abreu, expressing the feeling of betrayal that he continued to support Gonçalves. (…)

Miami-based Fight Sports has 32 training academies in the United States, South America, Europe and Africa. Abreu said that Gonçalves came to his school in Brazil at the age of 14 to try to overcome the trauma of his mother’s death by suicide. He was one of the first of more than 150 competitors that Abreu has taken to black belt.

Abreu seemed outraged after Gonçalves was arrested on second-degree criminal charges in Florida. He wrote on Instagram that “sexual assault can never be tolerated” and that “my heart breaks for the victim and his family”. Without mentioning Gonçalves’ name, Abreu said he “would be held responsible”.

Abreu’s sincerity was questioned in an Instagram post in August. Mo Jassim, who organizes one of the sport’s main tournaments, presented statements and evidence, in video and photos from other fighters, that Gonçalves was authorized to train and socialize at the emblematic Abreu gym in Miami and at an associated gym in Florida after his prison. Abreu said he allowed Gonçalves to enter the Miami gym just to pick up his wife and child.

Jassim, who said he was motivated by concern for the victims, also published a statement by Hind Chaouat, 42, a Moroccan visual artist who said she was attacked while attending a Fight Sports training in Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil , on September 9, 2016 .

In an interview with The New York Times, Chaouat said she was sleeping at the Marruá Hotel when she woke up and found another fighter on top of her.

According to the police report, read for The Times, Paulo Félix Figueiró, then 37 years old, was arrested and charged with attempted rape. Hotel security footage showed Figueiró entering Chaouat’s room, but he denied assaulting her. When contacted by “The Times”, Figueiró said he didn’t know anything about Fight Sports. According to Chaouat, Abreu told her that since her attacker didn’t penetrate her, “it wasn’t a big deal.” (…)

In Abreu’s words, the values ​​of jiu-jitsu, taught by him, transform lives “by helping my students to develop self-confidence through discipline, respect, teamwork and integrity”. But it’s also a sport whose black belt instructors are regularly treated as master and teacher and, according to Jassim, are seen “almost like demigods.” Jiu-jitsu melee training also goes beyond the physical boundaries between instructor and student.

“You take these girls, 15, 16, to a coach they admire, and then they have the pressure to succeed at all costs. I think all of this together is a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Mandy Schneider was 16 in October 2020 when, she says, she was induced to drink wine by her Fight Sports instructor and raped in a hotel room the night before a competition in Houston. Instructor Rodrigo da Costa Oliveira trained at the Abreu gym in Miami and received his own black belt. Schneider told his story for the first time to the “Jiu-Jitsu Times”. (…)

When Jassim wrote about the Gonçalves case in August, Abreu said in a note that he was terminating Gonçalves’ black belt and severing all ties with him. He told the “Jiu-Jitsu Times” that he was also revoking the black belts awarded to Oliveira, accused of assaulting Mandy Schneider, and Tony Harris Jr., a former Fight Sports-affiliated instructor in Illinois, and that he would stop them from all Fight Sports gyms.

According to court records and media reports, Harris was convicted of sexual assault in 2014 by one of his students, who was 15 at the time.

Abreu also said he was creating a sexual misconduct hotline and implementing a zero tolerance policy at Fight Sports gyms. This was seen by some, however, as a bumbling response. Victims should call 911, not a Fight Sports hotline, if they are assaulted, said Nathaniel Quiles, 38, who previously trained at Miami’s premier gym in Abreu. (…)