Two-time Olympic taekwondo gold medalist Steven Lopez has been banned permanently from competition by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, based on the results of the agency's investigation into Lopez's sexual relationship with an underage female in 2000.

The relationship involved a 14-year-old neighbor whose family was a friend of the Lopez family, and occurred at a time when the complainant was a taekwondo athlete and Lopez was establishing himself as one of the sport's dominant figures, eventually winning five world titles along with the two Olympic gold medals, according to a report compiled by SafeSport.

The relationship involved a 14-year-old neighbor whose family was a friend of the Lopez family, and occurred at a time when the complainant was a taekwondo athlete and Lopez was establishing himself as one of the sport's dominant figures, eventually winning five world titles along with the two Olympic gold medals, according to a report compiled by SafeSport.

Investigators said the relationship progressed over a four-year period, beginning when the complainant was 10, from what was described as grooming to sexual contact to oral sex, the latter occurring at a time when the complainant was 14 and Lopez was 22. The sexual relationship, SafeSport concluded, took place "in violation of the SafeSport Code, the criminal laws of the State of Texas and the standards expected of USA Taekwondo members."

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Lopez, who along with his older brother and coach, Jean Lopez, has been named as a defendant in a federal court lawsuit filed in Colorado, declined to be interviewed by SafeSport regarding the allegations.

Lopez's attorney said he will appeal the permanent sanction, which as it stands prohibits him from competing in national and international events, including the 2019 world championships and 2020 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, the woman who brought the complaint against Lopez, Nina Zampetti, 31, who has allowed her name to be made public in interviews concerning the case, said she is gratified by the SafeSport decision.

"I'm glad they believed what I said and that they listened to me, and I'm glad something was done," she said. "This is an ongoing thing I've been dealing with for most of my life. The only difference is that more people know about it."

The SafeSport decision is the latest development in a long-running investigation regarding actions by the Lopez brothers, the two oldest members of taekwondo's most accomplished family.

Steven, a 2000 and 2005 Olympic gold medalist and 2008 bronze medalist, and younger brother Mark and younger sister Diana all won world championships in 2005 and Olympic medals in 2008 while being coached by Jean Lopez, the oldest sibling.

SafeSport earlier this year issued a permanent ban against Jean Lopez, based on allegations of improper sexual conduct lodged by at least three women he coached. Three women made similar allegations, in one case involving physical abuse, against Steven Lopez.

The permanent ban issued to Jean Lopez, however, was rescinded when the women refused, upon advice of their attorney to testify before SafeSport in Jean Lopez's appeal of the permanent ban.

The ban was rescinded, and Jean Lopez is now under an interim restriction by SafeSport that could restore his right to coach.

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Attorney Howard Jacobs, who represents the Lopez brothers, said Steven Lopez will appeal the latest SafeSport ruling.

"Steven Lopez denies the allegations that have been made against him by SafeSport," Jacobs said in an email. "SafeSport's issuance of a sanction is done without any hearing and without any review by a neutral fact-finder.

"We intend that when a neutral fact-finder hears the case for the first time, Steven Lopez will prevail, because the allegations are false."

Zampetti said she met Steven Lopez when she was 10 years old and was subsequently coached by him in taekwondo.

Her family moved next door to the Lopez home in Sugar Land in 1998, and Lopez began what SafeSport investigators described as grooming activities, holding her hand and giving her presents, including a ring when she was age 11.

When she was 14 and Lopez was 22, she said Lopez rubbed her genitals with his foot while she was clothed, had conversations of a sexual nature with her and that she performed oral sex on him.

SafeSport investigators concluded that Zampetti's story was credible and that Steven Lopez's position in the sport created a "significant power imbalance" in his relationship with her.

The SafeSport decision was handed down two days after Sports Illustrated published on its website a story detailing allegations by three of five women who have filed suit in Colorado against the Lopez brothers, USA Taekwondo, the U.S. Olympic Committee and SafeSport.

Attorney Steve Estey, who represents the women in the Colorado case, said the SafeSport decision was "20 years too late," adding "While (USA Taekwondo) and USOC were ignoring the Lopez brothers' pattern of sexual misconduct and paying them more than $100,000 to win medals and make money for the USOC, our athletes were suffering.

"Since SafeSport has not made its policies available, we can only hope that Lopez does not find a loophole to escape accountability much like his older brother Jean. SafeSport must vigorously defend the ban if and when Lopez appeals the decision. Otherwise, the ban is a paper tiger with no will to protect our athletes."