USA Swimming Scandal – Profile of Abuse in Alaska

by timothyjoyce

Eveyln Mulwray: What were you doing there? 
Jake Gittes: Working for the District Attorney. 
Evelyn Mulwray: Doing what? 
Jake Gittes: As little as possible. 
Evelyn Mulwray: The District Attorney gives his men advice like that? 
Jake Gittes: They do in Chinatown.

A scene from Roman Polanski’s Chinatown 


It appears that nowhere in this country, no matter how remote, is immune from the tactics of delay and obfuscation from USA Swimming when the nonprofit organization conducts its infamously dubious investigations.   

The locations this time – Montana, Idaho and Alaska. 

Piecing together a lengthy and complex sequence of events related to an accusation of sexual abuse in Montana, by a coach who also taught swimmers in Alaska and Idaho, it is evident that USA Swimming failed in its duty to follow their own protocol when investigating a serious accusation. Furthermore, and perhaps more damning, from the example I outline below, it is evident that USA Swimming did not pursue this case with any particular zeal until a woman who alerted them of such abuse informed them that she had been reading up on WBAL’s coverage of the sex abuse scandal. 

Sadly, and tragically, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, USA Swimming’s M.O. is to act only when a story threatens to become public knowledge. We’ve seen this time and again, most recently with the Richard Curl investigation.  

Here is a condensed timeline of the latest case to be examined for this continuing series of articles on USA Swimming:  

· In May, 2009 a woman (who wishes to remain anonymous) contacts USA Swimming, to warn the organization about reckless behavior from a coach and his inappropriate contact with young swimmers and improper – if legal – involvement with parents and board members. This coach had already been fired from the woman’s swim team for unrelated reasons. Additionally, the woman had actually made a verbal complaint months prior to May, 2009 with no response from USA Swimming.

· On November 10th, 2011, Ms. Connie Kanen sent Susan Woessner an email informing her about a 15 year-old swimmer who was allegedly molested by a swim coach in Montana. The coach was Ms. Kanen’s ex-husband (the molestation occurred before Ms. Kanen was married) and the same man who the woman in 2009 had complained about. Kanen attached an online conversation she had with the victim. In her email to Woessner, Ms. Kanen also stated that, “I have a 12-year history with this man and truly believe he should not work with children. In fact, I currently have a domestic violence restraining order against him which restricts him from having any physical visitation with his own three year-old child.”

· On November 28th, 2011, Kanen sent Paulette Brundage, USA Swimming’s investigator (the same one who investigated the death of Sarah Burt and all the other cases I’ve referenced in this series of columns) a package of evidence, detailing behavior by her ex-husband. Additionally, Brundage was informed in writing about the young girl who Kanen believes to have been molested by her ex-husband.

· Also on November 28th, 2011, the woman who first filed the 2009 complaint then followed up the status of the investigation. Woessner tells her that, “… the ***** investigation is our priority investigation and is ongoing at this time. Please understand that it is our intent to do a thorough investigation and that this can take time, particularly during the holiday season.”

· On January 7th, 2012, Kanen sent Woessner and Brundage the detailed account, written by the minor, chronicling the molestation the girl suffered through from the coach. Kanen maintains that the girl sent this document days earlier but Kanen wanted to also send it on to ensure it would arrive at USA Swimming headquarters.

· On April 17, 2012 after Kanen inquired again as to the status of the investigation, Susan replied that, “Connie, I hope you are well. I wanted to let you know that we have completed the investigation in the **** complaint and we are currently reviewing it for next steps. When we have a decision to that end, I will be able to provide another update.” In a couple of additional emails over the next four months, Woessner reaffirms that the investigation is closed and that the investigation is in its next steps, etc.

· On August 16th, 2012, after Kanen had sent her an article on the Penn State situation and it’s possible links with the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal, Woessner emails Kanen and says that, “…the investigation has closed and we are in the process of reviewing it for next steps. This part has taken longer in part due to the fact that I have been out of the office for much of the summer. I will update you as to next steps when we move in that direction.”

· On September 20, 2012, in a phone call, Kanen informs Woessner that her ex-husband was indeed a USA Swim coach at the time of the molestation as he was coaching a USA Swimming team in Alaska. In fact he’s been a coach from 1999-2011. At this point Kanen also tells Woessner that she is increasingly alarmed by the articles she is reading on WBAL detailing the sex abuse scandal at USA Swimming. Woessner claims that, until this conversation, she couldn’t act because the alleged victim didn’t swim in a USA Swimming league and she wasn’t aware that the coach was affiliated with USA Swimming until this time. Woessner informs Kanen that since **** was indeed a USA Swimming coach at the time of the alleged molestation, that this “changes everything” and USA Swimming will move ahead quickly with the case.

· On Tuesday, September 25th, 2012, Kanen calls the police department to see if USA Swimming had filed a report. The police tell Kanen that yes, USA Swimming had just filed a report last week.

· Finally, on Wednesday, September 26, 2012, the swimmer who was alleged molested is informed by Kanen that the police may contact her. But, as of the writing of this article, USA Swimming – Woessner or anyone else – has not contacted the swimmer to confirm that she was being coached by someone affiliated with USA Swimming. 

The following are conclusions that can be drawn from these events: 

Fact – it took USA Swimming nearly a year to file a police report relating to the possible molestation of a teenage girl by a coach. 

Fact – it took nearly a year for USA Swimming to realize that the accused coach was a USA Swimming-affiliated coach, even though USA Swimming was given a serious complaint about the molestation of a teenage girl, a complaint that the girl had in writing. And the reason they gave for not knowing he was a USA Swimming coach was because the girl swam in a non-USA Swimming league. How hard could it have been to check the national database? And wouldn’t such a horrible accusation trigger some sort of urgency in Colorado Springs? This is, after all, more than a year after the 20/20 interview with Executive Director Chuck Wielgus exposed USA Swimming to accusations of ignoring abuse complaints for decades.  

Fact – Susan Woessner and USA Swimming had declared the case closed until Kanen went to them again and stated she had been reading the latest articles on the sex abuse scandal involving USA Swimming. After relaying this info, USA Swimming took a more active approach.  

When I asked the woman who first filed the complaint against this coach she referred me to a passage she wrote to Woessner in an email earlier this week. It reads, “I believe that somehow, somewhere, and at some point, the truth will become national news just like it was in the Penn State case – USA Swimming is corrupt, dishonest, and a breeding ground for sexual predators. You are no different than these coaches, as you cowardly run and hide when a complaint is actually made! I suggest that if you spent a quarter of your ‘meetings’ trying to set up policies and procedures that actually help protect the teams and their families, that you wouldn’t have to be spending half your time now putting out fires in the media and covering up such poor and unethical behaviors! I don’t know how you sleep at night.” 

Well said.