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Maximum Pace
Jan 14, 2007
Coach accused of raping girl, 15

July 17, 2008 - 1:05PM

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.

he Vice Chairman of Track Cycling WA said he was shocked by the allegations.

"I'm not a great fan of Rick Lee, but the allegations would surprise me," Tony Harman said. "I wouldn't think he'd be that stupid."

Mr Harman said whether the rape allegations were proven or not, a dark shadow would be cast over Lee's coaching career.

"If this is proven, it would be a massive stigma for his coaching career," Mr Harman said. "He'd be gone.

"If he is found guilty, he wouldn't be allowed to coach again, obviously.

"That would be a vast no-no in any sport. He's dealing with juniors, that's his forte.

"Even if it is not proven, the stigma will still be around. That sort of thing hangs around like a bad smell. Everyone looks sidewards at you."

Mr Harman said he disagreed with some of Mr Lee's coaching techniques.

"I think his methods are a bit extreme," he said.

Mr Harman said he'd known Lee for many years, but did not consider him a friend.

Chairman of Cycling WA, Tom Fico, was tight-lipped on the alleged rape.

"We believe he is innocent until proven guilty," Mr Fico said.

"Until there's been a full investigation, we will not be making any comment."

Mr Fico said Lee was no longer formally a state coach.

"He operates as an independent service provider to Midland club," Mr Fico said.

The Department of Child Protection could not say whether Lee has a Working with Children Check, required under WA law for people working with children under 18.

A DCP spokesman said the information was not available because of privacy provisions in the legislation.
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