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Thorns head athletic trainer, assistant coach fired after NWSL investigations

Head athletic trainer Pierre Soubrier and assistant coach Sophie Clough were both fired following NWSL investigations into separate incidents of misconduct.

PORTLAND, Ore — The Portland Thorns have fired two members of the team's coaching staff after separate investigations by the National Women's Soccer League confirmed allegations of misconduct including unwanted contact with a player and giving players codeine without a prescription.

Assistant coach Sophie Clough and head athletic trainer Pierre Soubrier have both been fired, according to an NWSL news release and first reported by The Oregonian. The Thorns confirmed the firings in a statement and said the club "remained committed to following all NWSL policies" and "fully cooperated with the league's investigation."

"Upon receiving the NWSL’s final investigative findings, the club has terminated the employment of both Soubrier and Clough. The health and safety of the players is our utmost priority," the statement read.

The investigation into Soubrier began in November, NWSL said, when Thorns leadership informed the league that the club's team physician, Dr. Breanne Brown, reported that Soubrier had told her he had given two players codeine at the team's Oct. 22 semifinal match.

Codeine is an opiate that can be used for pain management or as a cough suppressant, according to the Food and Drug Administration, but it is a controlled substance and medications containing codeine require a prescription.

Soubrier was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 7, the league said, and the investigation eventually concluded that he had given the medication to players multiple times, including one instance in which he did not have informed consent from the player.

Brown also self-reported her own conduct for an incident in which Soubrier asked her for a controlled medication to give to players as needed, and she gave it to him. The NWSL investigation cleared her of wrongdoing, noting that she quickly became uncomfortable with what she'd done and told Soubrier not to use the medication, then took it back before it was given to anyone.

The investigation into Clough also began in November when the Thorns reported to the league that a player said Clough had made her uncomfortable by kissing her neck during the team's championship celebration in Washington, D.C.

The claims were found to be substantiated and a violation of league policy, NWSL said. The investigation also examined allegations of bullying behavior by Clough, although it found those reports to be unsubstantiated.

Both investigations were unrelated to a broader NWSL misconduct investigation last year that heavily faulted the Thorns for the club's handling of abuse allegations against former head coach Paul Riley, among other problems.

The investigation led to the firings of former general manager Gavin Wilkinson and former president of business Mike Golub, and prompted owner Merritt Paulson to step down as CEO of the Thorns and Timbers and pledge that he would sell the Thorns.

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