Report: USA Swimming Ignored Or Covered Up Hundreds Of Cases Of Sexual Abuse

For a period of decades, USA Swimming fostered a “culture of
sexual abuse” and ignored or covered up hundreds of cases of
underage swimmers being sexually abused, according to
a report by the Orange County Register
. From the

USA Swimming repeatedly missed opportunities to overhaul a
culture within American swimming where the sexual abuse of
underage swimmers by their coaches and others in positions of
power within the sport was commonplace and even accepted by
top officials and coaches, according to the documents and
interviews with sexual abuse survivors, former Olympians, USA
Swimming officials, safe sport advocates and some of USA
Swimming’s leading financial benefactors.

The report is rich with details, and I recommend reading the
whole thing. It highlights a speech given in 2005 by
then-President of USA Swimming Ron Van Pool, urging the
organization to take a more proactive approach to dealing with
abuses committed against swimmers. According to documents
reviewed by the Southern California News Group, that call
largely fell on indifferent ears:

Top USA Swimming executives, board members, top officials and
coaches acknowledge in the documents that they were aware of
sexually predatory coaches for years, in some cases even
decades, but did not take action against them. In at least 11
cases either [USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus]
or other top USA Swimming officials declined to pursue sexual
abuse cases against high profile coaches even when presented
with direct complaints, documents show.

And here’s an absolutely staggering statistic:

In he more than 20 years since Wielgus took charge of USA
Swimming in July 1997 at least 252 swim coaches and officials
have been arrested, charged by prosecutors, or disciplined by
USAS for sexual abuse or misconduct against individuals under
18. Those coaches and officials have a total of at least 590
alleged victims, some of them abused while attending
pre-school swim classes.

The report paints a picture of USA Swimming as every bit as
dysfunctional and indifferent toward victims as USA Gymnastics.
While a lot of the blame expressed in the report is pointed
towards Chuck Wielgus, who died in 2017, and who is described
as having “absolute control of the issue of coach-swimmer
sexual abuse,” it’s impossible for abuse on the scale alleged
to go unchecked without the participation of others, and
probably dozens of others. Consider this infuriating detail:

USA Swimming since at least 2010 has kept a list of more than
30 coaches and officials “flagged” by USA Swimming officials
after being arrested or accused by law enforcement of sex
crimes including rape and child pornography, but not
disciplined by USA Swimming. Some coaches and officials on
the “flagged” list have not been banned even after they have
been convicted of felonies. Of the 32 people on the “flagged
list” in 2010, only six have been subsequently banned by USA
Swimming. The “flagged list” is not available to the public.
Even when USA Swimming has banned coaches and officials for
life for sexual misconduct it can be years before their names
are listed on the permanently banned list on USA Swimming’s

You should read
the entire report
. The failure of adult-run systems built
on the achievements of young athletes to protect those athletes
from horrifying abuse is breathtaking.

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