Shaun White's sexual harassment case tarnishes golden Olympics legacy

The sexual harassment allegations involved a female former member of White's rock band.

This story is a commentary by USA Today's Martin Rogers.

Shaun White’s victorious performance in men’s halfpipe on Wednesday morning put him among some of the all-time United States greats of Winter Olympics history, but it was a tainted gold and perhaps a tainted legacy.

In the leadup to these Games I was ready to write that a third gold in the Olympics would and should put White at the top of the list as the most significant American winter athlete ever.

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But the Winter Olympics have brought renewed attention to sexual harassment allegations involving a female former member of White’s rock band, so you can forget about that now. He’s still a gold medalist of course, but being anointed as the greatest requires special factors beyond the arena of performance.

It looked like he had all those facets.

Sure, speedskaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden collected more hardware, and the exploits of the 1980 Miracle of Ice team were movie-worthy and unforgettable, but White helped to change the face of the chillier version of the Olympics.

He represented a new era where this festival of snow and ice was not only allowed to be cool but encouraged style and individuality and the kind of sparkle to resonate with a young audience.

White had all that — and he backed it up with winning performances, too. What a combination, a heartwarming story, a likable guy but with enough contemporary edge to cross over into mainstream culture.

And, just like that, he has lost it. This is an era where misconduct of a sexual nature, quite rightly, can’t be talked or explained or bought away. White reached an undisclosed settlement with Lena Zawaideh in May, so the matter from his perspective is out of the courts and under control.

But it is a part of his story now, and will remain so.