Olympic gold medalist Shaun White wants the world — and the woman who accused him of sexual harassment — to know he has changed.
“I regret my behavior many years ago and am sorry that I made anyone — particularly someone I considered a friend — uncomfortable,” the 31-year-old snowboarder told the New York Times on Wednesday, February 14. “I have grown and changed as a person, as well grow and change, and am proud of who I am today.”
White made history on Wednesday when he became the first person to win three gold medals in Olympic snowboarding competitions. But the athlete’s success at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea isn’t the only thing making headlines.
As White was making his comeback, social media users were tweeting details from a August 2016 lawsuit filed against him by Lena Zawaideh , a former drummer in his rock band, Band Things. In the papers, Zawaideh claims White “repeatedly sexually harassed her, forced her to watch pornography and refused to pay her after she was fired.”
White paid an undisclosed settlement in May. But the story hasn’t disappeared.
At a press conference hours after his epic win, White was asked by reporters if he thought Lena Zawaideh’s claims would tarnish his reputation. “I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,” he replied. “I don’t think so.”
Later that day, White expressed remorse for the comment. “I’m truly sorry that I chose the word ‘gossip,’” he told Today. “It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject n the world today.” The four-time medalist then reflected on how he has evolved as a person. “It’s amazing how life works and twists and turns and lessons learned,” he revealed. “Every experience in my life I feel like it’s taught me a lesson and I definitely feel like I’m a more changed person then I was when I was younger.”
In her lawsuit, Zawaideh also included screenshots of alleged text exchanges from White. According to TMZ, who obtained the messages, White allegedly asked her to cut her hair a certain way and sent her sexually explicit and graphic images of penises.
White’s lawyer, Kerry Garvis Wright, previously told Us Weekly in a statement that her client did send the text messages, but the lawsuit isn’t justified.
“Many years ago, I changed texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit,” read White’s statement via his attorney. “There is absolutely no coincidence to the timing of her claims, and we will defend them vigorously in court.”