An investigation has been launched after a Paralympic medal hopeful was stripped of her funding while in hospital receiving mental health treatment for a gang rape and kicked off the British para-snowboarding team.
Cassie Cava, 26, had expected to make the podium at the upcoming Winter Paralympics in March, but withdrew from the selection process at the start of this month feeling suicidal at the lack of support she claims she received from some coaches and senior figures at British Parasnowsport.
At the same time as she flourished in para-triathlon – winning a European title last summer – Cava claims her winter sport bosses made her feel "worthless" and "like they want me to be un-raped."
An independent investigation has now been launched into her allegations, with the former King's College London medical student considering legal action and feeling like she has been punished for her mental health issues.
"They say that opening up about something and not getting support is the second trauma or the betrayal," Cava told The Telegraph.
"They really made me feel that what had happened meant I couldn't go on and do anything. They made me feel really bad for opening up about my mental health and talking about it.
"It was horrible and I've really struggled over the last six months. I've been really low and being made to feel like that and being made to feel so worthless was awful."
Cava, who was born with two club feet, was walking home late at night while abroad in Europe when she was attacked and subjected to a gang rape in 2013.
Reluctant to relive the details of the harrowing ordeal, she never fully reported the incident and remains unwilling to divulge precise information.
Attempting to put the episode behind her, she embarked on a medical degree that was halted when she elected to have her right leg amputated below the knee in 2014, after she broke her foot and it would not heal despite several operations. She soon flourished in the British para-snowboarding programme.
Focused on becoming the first female para-snowboarder to represent Britain at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games, Cava only told her coaches about the rape at the end of 2016 when she began to feel unsafe in a male-dominated environment as the only female athlete on the team.
Such a beautiful morning on the mountain before we get into the pretty massive sbx course tomorrow! #Repost @cozz_wozz with @repostapp ・・・ Beauty of a day perfecting the art of the turn with #parasnowsports athlete @cassie.cava • • #lifeofadventure #snowboarding #canada #racing #competition #girlswhoshred #thisgirlcan #coaching #getoutside #adventureproof #amputee
When she raised the subject to some senior figures, she alleges that one of them asked her: "Do you want to hang yourself?"
Despite asking to train and reside with other female athletes, Cava claims she was told to train, eat and sleep in the same place as her entirely male fellow para-snowboarding team.
She says she was left feeling vulnerable when one senior male figure ignored her requests to give her space while away at a training camp and decided to sleep on the living room sofa outside her bedroom.
Struggling to deal with a worsening situation, Cava was admitted to a mental health hospital in February 2017 and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder related to the gang rape and loss of her leg.
It was while in hospital that she was informed she would be stripped of her UK Sport funding for "behavioural issues". She then made light of her subsequent removal from the British team when she returned to competitive action and finished second as an independent athlete at a World Cup event in September - a result that no other British boarder has bettered all season.
With her funding reinstated on appeal last October, Cava says the final straw was her first foreign camp back with the national squad where she was denied her pleas to be in the company of another female.
"I went away thinking they were really going to do that and that they understood that. Then I went on the camp and it was horrible," she said.
"That really confirmed to me that they weren't going to support me in any way because it was a big thing on my first day back in that environment. I had been very unwell, but they weren't going to prioritise me at all."
At a time when she was battling to overcome her newly-diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, Cava says she felt so low that she self-harmed and was left feeling suicidal.
"When I came out of hospital I was ready to get back into sport and push myself," she said. "In hospital I'd had a lot of intensive treatment to treat trauma and I felt that I should have been in a strong place to carry on my life.
"I was met with such horrible treatment. It was worse than being in hospital, it was worse than being raped.
"At a time when I was very vulnerable I needed and expected a bit of support and understanding, but I got the opposite."
A UK Sport spokesman said: "Athlete welfare is of the utmost importance to all of us.
"British Parasnowsport and UK Sport have jointly commissioned Sport Resolutions UK to produce an independent investigation and finding of fact into the allegations raised by Cassie Cava, and therefore we are unable to comment further at this stage."
They also said they had been working with the relevant organisations to "support Cassie's ambition to compete at the Paralympic Games" until she "chose to remove herself from British Parasnowsport's programme earlier this year."
A British Parasnowsport spokesperson said: "We would caution against any conclusions being drawn by others not in possession of all the facts. As the investigation is ongoing, we are not able to expand further at this time."
In stark contrast to her treatment with the British para-snowboarding set-up, Cava has excelled in a British Triathlon programme that she says has "accepted me for who I am and shown me 100 per cent support". Only months after leaving hospital, she won her first European para-triathlon title last summer.
"What I've done with British Triathlon shows that my mental health, what's happened to me, isn't any kind of barrier to me thriving in that environment," she said.
"It has been the most empowering thing I've done since losing my leg, since being attacked, and it's really helped me rebuild my life. It's given me confidence back and it's allowed me to be me.
"There's absolutely no understanding from the management at British Parasnowsport about disability and mental health - I was just looked at as somebody who couldn't do it."