French coach says he ‘fought back’ against judo champion after arrest for domestic violence
French judo coach Alain Schmitt, accused by Olympic judo champion Margaux Pinot of domestic violence, claimed on Friday that he had merely defended himself in a fight that he said she started.
Pinot, who won mixed-team gold at the Tokyo Olympics, accused Schmitt, her partner and former coach, of attacking her in a drunken state while she was in bed in her apartment on Saturday night.
“He straddled me and started hitting me, from left to right,” the 27-year-old said at a news conference Thursday, her face covered in bruises.
“I didn’t even defend myself to avoid the blows, instead I tried to reason with him. I said ‘Stop Alain, stop,'” he said. “I thought to myself, I need to get away from him, or I’ll die here.”
Police arrested Schmitt, but he was released after a court hearing early Wednesday, and the judge said there was insufficient evidence to support the domestic violence charge.
“My impression is that he was defending myself,” Schmitt told the BFMTV station on Friday. “I have never hit a woman in my entire life. In my intimate life I am a tender person.”
Prosecutors immediately filed an appeal against the court’s decision that sparked widespread anger, including among candidates campaigning for next year’s French presidential election.
Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon called the incident “disgusting” and said of the court’s decision: “What else do you need? For her to die?”
Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo, who is the mayor of Paris, said that Pinot “has my full support,” while Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said that “Margaux is clearly the victim here.”
But Schmitt said it was Pinot who attacked him, angry that he was about to leave for Israel, where he had been hired to coach the national women’s judo team.
Schmitt said he took the job to get out of the relationship with Pinot, which he said had been “complicated” in the past two years.
He told BFMTV that, during the fight, he tried to get out of the apartment, but “every time I was pulled back, by my shirt or by my arm.”
He insisted that he “neither hit nor kicked her.” “I’m not violent. Everybody needs to hear that,” he said.
Schmitt, who had a large bruise on the side of his face, reiterated that the two hit the walls and floor during the judo-style fight, which he said explained the injuries.
Pinot has rejected Schmitt’s version of events, telling reporters: “He is lying.”
Following the accusations, the Israeli Judo Federation broke contact with Schmitt.
Aside from her Olympic medal, Pinot has won two European champion titles and a bronze medal at the world championship.