INDIANA, PART TWO: CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND DENIAL RULE THE DAY AT USA SWIMMING
This continuing series of articles on the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal is, first and foremost, about the callous disregard for many young girls who were victimized by their coaches and the ensuing cover-ups that are still taking place to protect the image of USA Swimming – an image, when all is said and done, that will likely be forever tarnished. The following article, a follow-up to topics first mentioned in my piece last week regarding events in Indiana, focuses on the interconnectedness of the narrow universe that makes up USA Swimming and the access to power that rests in the hands of a very few. It is important and instructive to examine this aspect of the scandal to put in perspective the arbitrary manner of punishing coaches that USA Swimming (and in this case, Indiana Swimming) engages in and the tremendous conflicts of interest that serve to fortify the riches of non-athletes. It’s been said before by many but it’s worth repeating: the Olympic movement, both here in the United States and around the world, is downright feudal. As one of my sources said to me, “the Olympics are a great business model; the athletes work for free and a bunch of fat old men get rich.”
“Just – follow the money”, Deep Throat speaking to Bob Woodward in the film All the President’s Men
“Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king”, Bob Dylan, Sweetheart Like You
Tony Young was lucky. More importantly, he was well connected.
After all, in 1998, while coaching the high school swim team in Carmel, Indiana, three of his swimmers were accused of attacking a mentally handicapped young boy in the showers, sodomizing him with a shampoo bottle. Charges were brought against Young for failure to report the crime, a most serious offense, especially someone involved with looking after children. But his case was curiously dismissed. The swimmers were never even charged. A civil case against the swimmers and the school was settled before going to trial, with terms undisclosed. Very little follow-up investigation was conducted by the local media, which is entirely consistent with the scant coverage of the USA Swimming sexual abuse scandal.
Young was forced to resign his position as coach of the high school team. And one would likely have assumed that it’d be nearly impossible to gain a foothold within the swimming community after such a damaging accusation; an accusation, according to four sources contacted for this story, that Young initially brushed off and considered a typical prank by teenagers. The tired refrain never ends, does it – boys will be boys.
But in the subsequent 14 years since the vile and cowardly act committed act by the privileged swimmers (ironically, Carmel was just voted the 2012 Best Place to Live in America by CNN/Money), Young has never had a problem rising through the ranks of the swimming establishment in Indiana Swimming. He currently holds the title of Sport Development Director at Indiana Swimming, located in downtown Indianapolis.
This is the same Tony Young who allegedly ignored warnings from Ken Stopkotte about Chris Wheat, the Indiana coach who was eventually convicted in 2010 of two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of child solicitation. Note about Wheat: he was sentenced to 8 years in prison, but because of good behavior and somewhat dubious educational credits, Wheat was released from the New Castle Correctional Facility in May, having spent just 19 months in jail.
Young likely had many friends within the incestuous USA Swimming universe who could have aided his efforts to restore his respectability in the swim community. One of his acquaintances with links to the swim world was Dale Neuburger, whose son was a member of Young’s high school swim team at the time the heinous assault took place. Neuburger and Young have also worked in the same office building in Indianapolis for years.
One would be hard pressed to find a more quietly powerful figure in the USA Swimming and Olympics worlds than Dale Neuburger. Here’s a brief list of the jobs he’s held: member of the USA Swimming Board of Directors, Vice President of USA Swimming, President of USA Swimming, Inc., Chairman of the National Governing Body Council, and Vice President of FINA, the international organization that oversees all swimming and diving events.
Amazingly, with all of his involvement within the Indiana and national swim community, and the fact that his own son was on Tony Young’s team at the time of the assault of the handicapped boy, Neuburger stated in 2011, under oath, that he had no idea of why Tony Young was let go as the Carmel High School coach. Additionally, under oath again, Neuburger – like everyone else it seems – denied any knowledge of Rick Curl’s sexual relationship with a teenage girl or why Curl, one of the most famous and lauded coaches in the sport, was let go by the University of Maryland. It defies belief and is an insult to believe that Neuburger, perhaps the most connected man to all aspects of USA Swimming, wouldn’t have heard about Curl. According to numerous sources Neuburger had direct knowledge of both instances; but the standard USA Swimming operating procedure of plausible deniability rages on.
Neuburger’s true power however doesn’t lie with USA Swimming. Rather it is his role as Director of TSE Consulting, United States – via his varied Olympic and swimming connections – that affords Neuburger tremendous opportunities and extraordinary access. Located in the same building as Indiana Swimming in Indianapolis, TSE Consulting, according to their website, is “… is an international consulting firm specialised in sport. As the trusted advisor to public sector clients around the world, we advise those who are seeking to use sport as a means to achieve diverse objectives. TSE has an unparalleled connection to the international sports world which adds value to all client assignments. Our international group of experienced consultants assist clients in identifying and leveraging the right opportunities in sport within the following separate, yet highly inter-related components that are fundamental to sport in any city/region or country: events, performance, participation, and facilities.”
What the TSE basically does is lobby on behalf of cities who want to host major international sporting events. Who would be better to handle this than Dale Neuburger who has both vast experience working with USA Swimming, FINA and the Olympics and who also held the position of head of the Indiana Sports Corporation from 1993 through 2005, a job in which he secured major sporting competitions for Indianapolis.
The conflict of interest here is nothing short of stunning. He is, in effect, both judge and jury. Jonathan Little, an Indianapolis-based attorney who has successfully settled abuse cases against USA Swimming says, “Dale Neuburger and TSE exemplify what is wrong with Olympic Sports. Neuburger uses his influence with organizations like FINA, USA Swimming and the US Olympic Committee to enrich himself via TSE while athletes compete for free. Neuberger refuses to acknowledge the obvious conflict between working for a city to garner a major international competition and being part of the body that votes to award that championship.”
Emails and phone calls to Mr. Neuburger were not returned.
USA Swimming has aggressively avoided transparency with the sexual abuse scandal, opting for cover-up instead, something they will greatly regret when it all comes crashing down and people start naming names. Yet their avarice is on full display for all to witness.