French athletes have expressed shock at the news that the coach of judo champion Margaux Pinot has been acquitted of domestic violence against the Olympic champion.
Pinot accused her partner and judo trainer Alain Schmitt of punching and attempting to strangle her over the weekend and filed a complaint against the coach.
In her complaint, the judo star accused Schmitt of assaulting her at her home in Paris during the night of Saturday and early hours of Sunday.
According to Pinot, she escaped and took refuge with neighbours who informed the police. The 27-year-old was later taken to hospital where she was treated for a broken nose among several other injuries.
Schmitt was arrested but denied the allegations according to French reports and was subsequently acquitted in court. The 38-year-old said the claims made against him were “100 percent false” and accused Pinot of starting the fight and placing him in judo holds.
“I have never hit a woman in my life, it’s rubbish,” Schmitt told the court.
Meanwhile, his lawyer, Malik Behloul disputed Pinot’s account of events, claiming: “With the strength that this man [Mr Schmitt] has, he is quite capable of doing a great deal more harm than that.”
In a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, a judge ruled that there was not “enough proof of guilt” for the prosecution to proceed.
“A court is never there to tell who is telling the truth and who is lying,” they said.
Prosecutors have stressed they will appeal against the verdict, having requested a one-year suspended prison sentence for what they deemed to be “very serious violence.”
On Thursday afternoon, both Schmitt and Pinot held separate news conferences to explain the alleged incident in detail.
Schmit denied punching Pinot and told of a violent struggle in which they banged into walls, a radiator and a door. He also claimed there had been a “media lynching” against him.
Pinot, however, accused Schmitt of trying to make her look “hysterical” and said his account was inaccurate.
Her lawyer, Rachid Madid, said he would “set the record straight in this case” and continue to gather information.
Members of the judo community in France have reached out to Pinot with messages of support.
Three-time Olympic champion, Teddy Riner, wrote: “We are all deeply touched by what our teammate Margaux Pinot has suffered and we give her our full support. What must be done to ensure that victims are heard? That the attackers be convicted?”
President of the French Judo Federation, Stéphane Nomis, also said he was shocked by the decision.
And Pinot’s compatriot, Clarisse Agbégnénou, took to Twitter to express her support for her teammate.
“I do not have the words to express everything that is going on in my head and my body as a woman in the face of what my teammate Margaux Pinot has gone through.
“All the more shocked by the court’s decision. What does it take for the sanctions to happen? Death?”
Pinot won gold in the mixed team event at Tokyo 2020 and is a double European champion in the women’s 70kg event.
She also won bronze in the same weight class at the 2019 World Championships.