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Former teammates allege doping and sexual abuse at U.S. Christian college

Indiana's Huntington University has been rocked by new allegations surrounding former cross-country coach

Huntington University (HU), a small Christian school in northeastern Indiana, is the centre of some horrifying allegations, IndyStar reported Tuesday. The school’s women’s running team has recently gained notoriety as they boasted two national champions in cross country, won a national team title in indoor track in 2020, was named National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) program of the year in 2021 and managed to land the fastest high-school miler in U.S. history, Addy Wiley, in 2022.

While the school, home to 1,428 students, may have been producing and attracting top athletes (called the Foresters), former runners have shared that they experienced a cult-like atmosphere surrounding former coach Nick Johnson. The runners allege emotional and physical abuse, pressure to take unidentified pills and injections (sometimes by force) and sex between Nick and two of the athletes he coached.

Allegations and lawsuit

The allegations come from interviews with four former Huntington runners and 20 other sources familiar with the athletes and program by journalist David Woods, and from a probable-cause affidavit in a 2020 criminal case filed against Johnson. Woods also obtained a related 48-page police report through a public records as well as a 40,000-word document written by former student-athlete Hannah Stoffel. 

A lawsuit filed on Friday on behalf of Stoffel and fellow former student-athlete Emma Wilson state that the women were victims of a coach “that gave Larry Nassar-esque massages all the while acting like Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France pharmacist, injecting unknown substances into” their bodies.

Huntington University XC athletes
HU is known for its strong cross country team  Photo: Huntington University

The 33-page lawsuit alleges criminal battery by Johnson and negligence by his wife, Lauren Johnson, as well as assistant coach Curtis Hines, Huntington University and other school officials.

The lawsuit says the doping scheme at Huntington was similar to that of Alberto Salazar, a track coach famously sanctioned for doping violations.

Who are Nick and Laura Johnson?

Nick, 35, grew up in Huntington and ran for the Foresters, graduating from HU in 2009. Johnson was hired in 2018 to coach cross country and track at HU, but was fired in 2020 after being arrested on four felony charges connected to a female high school student. In 2021, Johnson pleaded guilty to felony identity deception and served 30 days of a two-year sentence.

Nick Johnson Huntington University
Nick Johnson mugshot

Laura, 35, took over her husband’s role of cross country coach at HU and is now in her second year in the position. She is the first female coach to lead the program. Laura was an all-American track and cross country athlete and ran for the U.S. in the 1,500 metre event at the world championships in Beijing.

What happens now?

The lawsuit by Stoffel and Wilson was filed in civil court and seeks monetary damages–no criminal charges have been filed against anyone in connection with the new allegations in the lawsuit. Huntington police confirmed that they received Stoffel’s report and reports involving alleged use of performance-enhancing substances within the cross country program. Jeremy Nix, a Huntington County prosecutor, told IndyStar that an additional investigation is ongoing.

HU issued a brief statement Tuesday: “University leadership has been made aware that a civil suit was filed that names the University, as well as individuals formerly and currently associated with the University. Huntington University is doing its due diligence but cannot comment further at this time.”