Thursday, July 17, 2008

Coach accused of raping girl, 15

The wife of a leading WA cycling coach charged in the US with the rape of a 15-year-old girl says her husband has "never done anything wrong".

Police in Lehigh Township, Pennsylvania, arrested Rick Lee, 51, after he turned himself in at 2pm yesterday local time (2am today Perth time).

Lee has been charged with rape, statutory rape, burglary, trespass, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and indecent exposure. He allegedly met the girl over the internet.

Lee's wife, Debbie Lee, said from her Perth home that she had been told her husband had been "tricked" by a girl who claimed she was 19 into going to her home.

"He's not the kind of guy who would do anything against anyone's wishes," Mrs Lee said.

Both she and her daughter were "quite upset" to hear of Lee's arrest.

"He's been with kids all his life working and never done anything wrong. It's out of character, totally," Mrs Lee said.

Lee was in the US coaching a visiting Australian cycling team, including two from Western Australia.

Lee coached the Australian Youth Olympic team in 2005 and was Assistant Manager of the Australian Youth Olympic Team in 2003.

All up, he has coached 16 WA cycling teams.

He runs a company called Cycling West which trains elite junior cyclists before they gain entry to the WA Institute of Sport.

Among Lee's other charges in WA are ace Helena Valley cyclist Cameron Meyer, who will compete on the track in next month's Beijing Olympics.

Lee had been staying with the cycling team in Kutztown, in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The Australian cyclists were practising at the Valley Preferred Cycling Centre in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania.

Police said the victim was not one of Lee's cycling charges.

Lee is being held at Northampton County Prison after bail of $US125,000 ($128,000) was set by District Judge William Zaun.

A Cycling Australia spokeswoman said that following the arrest, the organisation had checked with a parent travelling with the team about the welfare of the 10 young cyclists.

Apart from the two WA cyclists, other team members are from Queensland, the ACT, Victoria and NSW. The team is not sanctioned by Cycling Australia.

"They're all fine. The early indications are they'll continue the tour," the spokeswoman said.

Meyer, who was on a training camp in Italy with the Olympic team, would not be commenting on Lee's arrest, the spokeswoman said.


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