Timothy Joyce

Coverage of the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal and other investigations

USA SWIMMING SCANDAL – Part 2 of the Indiana Connection

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.

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USA SWIMMING SCANDAL – Retaliation Against a Whistle Blower

THOSE WHO ATTEMPT TO CHALLENGE THE BLUE WALL OF SILENCE AT USA SWIMMING FACE INSTANT RETALIATION 

Part One:  The Swift and Effective Destruction of a Whistle Blower’s Reputation 

“All politics is local” – the immortal words spoken by former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, describing his notoriously messy profession. In actuality though his quote could apply to almost any national organization that is also involved at the local level. And such is the case with USA Swimming. The following article details events in the state of Indiana over the last decade. While Colorado Springs is the home of the United States Olympic Committee and USA Swimming, and California has been the breeding ground for countless Olympic swimming champions, Indiana can be considered the third leg of the triangle that constitutes the loci of power of the Olympic swimming establishment. It is the home of USA Diving, USA Track and Field, USA Gymnastics and other national sporting organizations. Within the same building as some of these organizations in downtown Indianapolis is also the office of TSE Consulting, an extremely influential corporation that has extensive connections with USA Swimming and is involved in all phases of Olympic planning; to reiterate what I wrote two weeks ago in my first piece – it is an incestuous world at USA Swimming

 

In my series of articles thus far I’ve illustrated the connection between USA Swimming and their local swim clubs; be it the covering up of swim coaches Andy King and Rick Curl, or the woefully incomplete “investigations” into both the death of Sarah Burt and the allegations of coaching abuse at a swim club along the Mississippi River. It is also apparent that USA Swimming acts in an extremely arbitrary fashion when it chooses to punish its own. In my investigation into instances in Indiana involving abuse and cover-up, the amount of detail uncovered is novelistic in scope and a lengthy article only begins to tell the story. I start off with the case of Ken Stopkotte and the painful saga he endured for speaking up about the issue of abuse in the swim world; while those engaged in cover-up and other breaches aren’t held accountable.  One of the conclusions drawn here is that USA Swimming – and its member clubs – practice the art of plausible deniability by way of character assassination and retribution.

 

Ken Stopkotte had heard enough.

 

So in the fall of 2009, after the arrest of Chris Wheat for sexually abusing a 14 year-old girl at the Lawrence Swim Club in Lawrence, Indiana, Stopkotte, a swim coach himself (and eventual 2010 Indiana Swim Coach of the Year) made the bold move and went to the local Indianapolis media and spoke of the disturbing pattern of sexual abuse that was emerging within the ranks of USA Swimming.

 

How could Stopkotte not speak up after suspecting that Wheat was a problem. While the head coach of the Indiana Zone All Star Team, Stopkotte reportedly confronted Tony Young, the Sports Development Director at Indiana Swimming, and told Young that he didn’t want Wheat on his staff based on rumors he had heard from female swimmers. Young ignored Stopkotte’s warning., with Young saying something to the effect of “take it or leave it.”  

 

Stopkotte was adamant that speaking out to the media was the right thing to do in an effort to shed light on this growing crisis within the sport; yet he was also aware that he would face immediate and vicious blowback from many others in the swim world.

 

After all, Stopkotte thought, USA Swimming had attempted to destroy former USA Swimming Vice President Mike Saltzstein after he came forward about the issue of abuse in swimming (as referenced in my first article in this series) and Saltzstein had a flawless reputation. Note on Saltzstein: after USA Swimming tried to remove him from the USA Swimming Officials List, an independent arbiter ruled that USA Swimming’s action were “arbitrary, capricious, and in violation” of  Salzstein’s right “to participate as an international referee under the  Sports Act.”

 

Indeed, within a few months Stopkotte was suspended as a coach from both Indiana Swimming and USA Swimming, for violating rules regarding the submitting of times for swim meets, something Stopkotte admits to doing. The infractions that Stopkotte owned up to occurred in February, 2010, just before he went on ABC News 20/20, in which the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal became a national story for a very brief time.

 

But it got even worse for Stopkotte. He would eventually spend a week in jail, in solitary confinement, and then waited out 18 months of legal limbo on a bogus charge, after being accused of stealing $17,000 from a local swim club. The charges were baseless and eventually dropped but the damage had been done and Stopkotte’s name was tarnished (I’m continuing an investigation into who set up Stopkotte on the ridiculous theft charges and will report back with  my findings).  USA Swimming had their ideal complainant – a man who accused the organization of wrongdoing but was easily labeled as a violator in his own right; plausible deniability.

 

Stopkotte had committed a far more severe crime than the aforementioned administrative shortcut – he told the truth about abuse, something that USA Swimming was terrified of having exposed.

 

There are those in Indiana who stated that Stopkotte only went on 20/20 to get attention for himself in a way of avoiding the administrative charges against him; but this argument holds no ground as Stopkotte had already spoken to the media months before.

 

And, more significantly, the aggressiveness in which the swimming authorities pursued Stopkotte was utterly without precedent. Their zeal in ruining his life is laid out in stark contrast to numerous other times when they turned a blind eye to both abuse and other instances of criminal behavior by those in the ranks of USA Swimming.  It’s clear all along that stifling any chatter amongst those in the swimming world regarding abuse was priority number one at USA Swimming. In fact, USA Swimming went into crisis control mode months before Stopkotte went public.  

 

A letter from lawyer Bernard “Buddy” Pylitt, of the firm Katz & Korin in Indianapolis, was sent to Arlene McDonald of Indiana Swimming on August 26th, 2009.  In the letter Pylitt –  who was representing both USA Swimming and Indiana Swimming – makes clear that transparency would not be the order of the day and that keeping quiet issues of sexual abuse would be the official policy. Stated Plyitt, “I request that any inquiry to or from any Board Member, parent, swimmer, or from the media be directed to my attention. “ The letter was in reference to the recent publicity surrounding former swim coach Brian Hindson, who was eventually sentence to 33 year in prison for secretly videotaping girls swimmers. Obviously Pylitt had a job to do, to defend the swimming establishment.

 

After Stopkotte appeared on Indiana television in October, Pylitt sent off another angry letter to Arlene McDonald of Indiana Swimming. “A report aired last night on WRTV (Channel 6) during which a member of the Indiana Swimming Board of Directors was interviewed and stated that the recent arrest of Chris Wheat was ‘not an isolated incident’ and that there ‘needs to be a tougher policy’ based upon the fact that ‘safety policies are insufficient’ … such public statement made and opinions given by an unauthorized representative and member of your Board are totally inappropriate …”

So, given the opportunity to get everything out in the open, USA Swimming decided it was best to keep things under wraps, again. While they may have thought it a sound legal policy at the time, it was also the modus operandi of USA Swimming – their go-to instincts were of cover-up and secrecy rather than transparency. 

 

What makes this even more bizarre and one of those cases of “I wouldn’t believe this even if it was a movie”, there was also a letter written to Indiana Swimming following Stopkotte’s appearance on 20/20 by a coach who was also Secretary of Indiana Swimming and a Board member.  Here is part of what he wrote (I kept the emphasis from the original letter, but corrected the numerous spelling errors):

 

“As a longtime member of both USA Swimming and Indiana Swimming I watched with great interest the article on 20/20 this evening… TO MY GREAT DISMAY I watched as an elected representative of our organization sought to sensationalize a horrific situation, and willingly brought false allegations against our sport and Indiana Swimming …  I hereby  ask for the resignation of Ken Stopkotte from the Indiana Swimming Board of Directors for willfully breaking the USA Swimming code of conduct, for ignoring legal counsel of Indiana Swimming and for attempting to gain personal profit from a horrific situation.”

 

That last statement is incredibly ridiculous as Stokotte had nothing to gain by having the guts to go forward.

 

So beyond this coach’s refusal to acknowledge the issue of abuse and why it’s important for  openness to rule the day, there’s something far more troubling here; according to multiple sources, this coach, four years earlier, was caught embezzling $30,000 in funds from the swim club where he worked. But it was covered up as his parents, who are both high ranking employees of USA Swimming in Colorado Springs, when they paid back the money. Additionally, this coach was free to work in the swim community, in fact was promoted several times, before being exposed by websites some four years after the theft.

 

And Ken Stopkotte is falsely charged with theft and had to endure humiliating time in a jail cell for something he didn’t do? And he was banned from coaching for an administrative breach, something he admits to, while another coach commits real theft but it’s covered up because of connections to the powerful at USA Swimming in Colorado Springs.

 

Stopkotte himself has come to terms, at least somewhat with all that’s happened. When I asked him if he’ll coach again, he said, “One day at a time.  I’m prepared that it could be next to impossible.  I have a passion to coach again, but because of the baggage from the past two years, I’ve accepted that it will probably never be my livelihood or full-time job. Coaching is like a drug.  I love coaching kids and helping them reach their goals.  It was always a dream of mine to be able to work with my sons when they were old enough.”

 

It all begs the question – what constitutes a crime at USA Swimming?  The answer is this – the airing of any issue regarding sexual abuse by USA Swim coaches is the #1 sin at USA Swimming.

 

As I said, this stuff is stranger than fiction.

 

Note: All effort was made to contact, both via email and phone, all who are mentioned in this article. But, as has been the case all along, no one talked.

 

COMING UP IN PART TWO:

The coach who wrote the above-referenced letter was close with Tony Young, a longtime high ranking official with Indiana Swimming. And Tony Young himself was caught up in his own crisis in 1998 when he was charged with failing to report a crime when three of his senior swimmers at Carmel High School were accused of harassing, beating and sexually assaulting a freshman teammate the showers.  The swimmers  never faced criminal charges. And the civil lawsuit against the school and the swimmers was set to go to trial but was settled shortly before. 

 

Interestingly enough, one of the boys on Young’s team (as yet undetermined if he participated in the assault on the helpless student) was the son of Dale Neuburger, one of the most powerful men in both USA Swimming and the Olympic movement here in the United States. He’s also the director of TSE Consulting in the United States, the company I mentioned in the introduction that has tremendous influence with USA Swimming and the Olympics.

 

Like I’ve repeatedly written, it’s all connected.

 

LATE UPDATE: There are also rumors afloat, unsubstantiated at this point, that, as many had suspected he would, USA Swimming head Chuck Wielgus is contemplating retiring. The reason he is likely to give is because of health, as he is a cancer survivor. But one can’t help but think that he wants to walk away from this sexual abuse scandal that will continue to haunt USA Swimming until accountability is achieved. I will closely follow this as more revelations about “who know what and when” about Rick Curl will emerge in the coming months.

USA SWIMMING SCANDAL – Profile of a Small Midwestern Town

SMOKING GUN EMAIL CONFIRMS USA SWIMMING CONTINUES TO COVER-UP INAPPRPORPIATE BEHAVIOR BY COACHES

 

The following article represents part of a rapidly developing story, a microcosm of the entire USA Swimming sex abuse scandal. The crux of this article is to demonstrate that even after their self-lauded attempts to rid the sport of problem coaches through their Safe Sport program, USA Swimming instead continues to take their path of diversion, delay and obfuscation. And even more egregious is the fact that the “investigations” they conduct are hardly comprehensive and appear little more than lip service paid to finding out the truth. USA Swimming’s handling of the ongoing Rick Curl situation, along with stories like the following prove that nothing has really changed all that much at USA Swimming.  I swore complete confidentiality to my numerous sources on this story and I choose, for now, to not identify the town’s name. Since this is a USA Swimming matter at this point and the coach does not currently face criminal charges, he is unnamed as well. This particular saga continues to get weirder and darker as I continue my investigation. There will be a lot more on this story soon. As usual I’ve heard nothing back from USA Swimming. It’s getting difficult to hear – the silence is deafening.

 

It’s happening again.

 

This time it is a small city along the majestic Mississippi River, a place where apparently everyone does seem to know all their neighbors, that is the site of USA Swimming’s latest attempt to keep quiet yet another incident of inappropriate behavior by an affiliated swimming coach.

 

It all began in the late summer/early fall of 2010 when USA Swimming received a photograph of the coach of this town’s club swim team. The picture caught him in an inappropriate pose with an underage female swimmer, around age 12. Susan Woessner, the director of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport, their initiative launched in 2010 to help prevent further incidents of abuse, did the right thing and contacted the coach in question. In her correspondence Ms. Woessner stated:

 

“USA Swimming has received a report alleging that your actions during a swim meet on October 3, 2010 violated USA Swimming’s Code of Conduct … Our new legislation passed at the USA Swimming House of Delegates on September 18 expressly prohibits rubdown or massage performed on an athlete by a coach member, even if the coach is a licensed massage therapist:

 

It is important for you to understand that in order for you to provide a positive experience and a safe environment for athletes, you should maintain professionalism and avoid any incidence of impropriety in your relationships with them.

 

This letter is to direct you to discontinue performing any rubdown or massage on any athlete immediately. If we receive any future report of you violating this or any other Code of Conduct policy, we will initiate a National Board of Review that may result in your suspension or expulsion from membership in USA Swimming.

 

The last sentence is highlighted for effect, as there is little doubt what Ms. Woessner is stating – if we hear about you again there will be a Board of Review, plain and simple. This was obviously the entirely correct stance for USA Swimming to present. The email was cc’d to USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus.

 

In the spring of 2011 a parent of a child who swam under this coach contacted Ms. Woessner and asked if there were any developments on the matter – the parent called because the coach had claimed that USA Swimming had “relaxed” their rules on certain behavior. Upon hearing the coach’s name mentioned, Ms. Woessner allegedly hesitated and then admitted that she was put off by the coach’s conversation with her as she felt he was trying to “see what he could get away with.” Obviously, this coach was on USA Swimming’s radar.

 

Since the spring of 2011, there have been four girls alleging inappropriate behavior by this coach and at least five allegations that have warranted investigations on some level. Additionally the coach in question was seen again having improper conduct with a swimmer on the deck that was similar to the action that triggered the initial complaint. During this time USA Swimming dispatched their main investigator on these matters, former FBI agent Paulette Brundage, to look into it.

 

Despite the many disturbing allegations from numerous girls, no action was taken.

 

And, according to all who I spoke with, Ms. Brundage has conducted her entire investigation over the phone, meaning that she didn’t speak in person to the coach who is alleged to have committed these acts or the young girls who made these accusations. How can an investigator, a former FBI agent, not speak face-to-face with witnesses and the alleged perpetrator? How is it possible to ascertain the truth when you can’t look into the eyes of those you question. In such a delicate investigation it is unheard of not to do this.

 

I spoke with Steven Latzer, a district attorney for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He told me that it is, “… outrageous.  Shoplifting cases are routinely investigated with greater detail.  There’s something very wrong here.” 

 

Clearly, referring to the Woessner correspondence above, the continued accusations against this coach more than merited a National Board of Review and likely should have triggered at least a temporary suspension or ban. But no action was taken.  Why?

 

Under increasing pressure, the coach resigned his head coaching position in early July and, at this point, is free to coach elsewhere. In fact, this coach is still conducting private lessons at the club. When I contacted the coach and asked if he was under investigation, he stated he usually doesn’t comment on USA Swimming matters. I followed up with an additional email that has not been answered.

 

It also must be noted that Ms. Brundage is also the lead investigator for USA Swimming looking into the tragic story of Sarah Burt, the Illinois girl who killed herself as the result of sexual abuse by her swim coach. As stated in my article from a week ago, the Burt family has yet to hear anything from Ms. Brundage or anyone else at USA Swimming on that investigation.

 

Said Lisa Burt, Sarah’s mother, “She (Brundage) didn’t meet with us.   From the people I talked to, it was more about Sarah’s character – which is ironic since she was fine until the abuse. And, when some of the people I had referred to her told me they still had not been contacted, I followed up with Susan (Woessner).  I waited months … there has been no sense of urgency on this.”

 

Emails to Ms. Woessner, Mr. Wielgus, outside counsel Mr. Richard Young, and Ms. Brundage were not answered.

 

These incidents have pitted former teammates against each other as well as parents. It has divided a community. There are some who, for whatever reason, refuse to believe any of the allegations against the coach – meaning that they choose not to believe the word of several young girls. Crises such as this are breeding grounds for denial and avoidance.

 

And I’m currently looking into talk that USA Swimming is trying to secretly negotiate agreements to make this matter go away, just as they’ve done numerous times in the past. If I receive any updates on this aspect of the case I will report it immediately.

 

Those who prey on children are brilliant groomers and they also know how to groom parents.

 

Indeed, a river runs alongside this proud town – but a USA Swimming club has cut through it. 

USA SWIMMING SCANDAL – John Leonard

HYPOCRISY RUNS DANGEROUSLY AMOK AT USA SWIMMING

 

“They’re just delaying in not dealing with Rick Curl until well after the Olympics. Curl has enough information to take down everybody with him at USA Swimming”, a source

 

In a widely publicized news report this week the longtime head of the American Swim Coaches Association, John Leonard, came out in no uncertain terms in his belief that Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen’s world record 400-mnter individual medley race was dubious, declaring Ye’s swim was the result of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s).

 

It’s impossible to know at this point if Leonard’s suspicions will be validated. And he is certainly not the only one who is highly suspect of Ye’s performance. Welcome to the Olympics, right? Or sports in general, more accurately.  From baseball to cycling to swimming, nearly every sport is continually hounded by reports of doping.

 

Said Leonard, “”If people don’t speak out when they see something suspicious, the public is going to think nonsensical splits were real,” Leonard said. “Then doping is going to have free reign for anything we don’t know about right now.” And Leonard should be applauded for maintaining his vigilance in attempting to rid his sport of PED’s.

 

If only Leonard demonstrated this persistence when dealing with the sexual abuse scandal involving USA Swimming coaches.

 

Examining Leonard’s long history with the sport here in the United States, on nearly every occasion Leonard has opposed the sport’s attempts to adopt a zero tolerance policy regarding inappropriate behavior by coaches. Nearly ten years ago when such a policy was being pushed by coach Dick Shoulberg who had “seen and heard too much”, Leonard, also in no uncertain terms, came out strongly against such a policy. Said Leonard at that time, the “possibility of abuse of this policy against abuse, is huge”, and that “I would work against the adoption of this policy and urge others to do likewise.”

 

Leonard went on to say, “Surprising to me, [the USA Swimming’s President] is considering Dick Shoulberg as the chair of the Task Force.I hate the whole topicBut I heard loud and clear that ‘our claims record shows that we have more and more of this going on. . . ‘ so I want to see this in black and white and not just out of some lawyer’s mouth, looking for more work.” In a later correspondence, Leonard maintained his anti-zero tolerance posture, stating, ”I signed on for a Sexual Abuse Task Force, not something called mental abuse, emotional abuse or anything else. If this committee decides to go this route, I will resign since I cannot and will not support it and will campaign and write actively against any policy that goes beyond sexual abuse. All the rest is totally nebulous, and too much like art…’I don’t know what it is but I know it when I see it.’”

 

I guess one can conclude that Mr. Leonard failed to see the connection between physical and mental trauma. And I think most abuse victims and those who report it will state that indeed one does know it when they see it.

 

Or maybe Mr. Leonard should think about what he says as his statement regarding doping would confirm the “you just know it when you see it” axiom. “There are a limited number of coaches left who have seen enough doped swimming to know what it looks like,” Leonard said on Wednesday. Indeed.

 

When asked for comment on the Rick Curl situation, Leonard didn’t reply.

 

Speaking of Curl, USA Swimming’s decision to “provisionally suspend” Curl until a National Board of Review hearing also smacks of raging hypocrisy and the action – or inaction – they took in the Curl case may be a violation against their own rules.

 

According to Bob Allard, who is representing Ms. Currin, the woman who Curl is alleged to have abused for several years when she was a teenager, United States Swimming had the power, indeed the responsibility, to act now.

 

I’ll shorten Allard’s extensive comment on this to prevent the reader from wandering into a morass of legalese.

 

“USA Swimming has again proven their ineptitude as they are apparently unfamiliar with the Ted Stevens Sports Act”, says Allard. “The due process provisions of the Sports Act only apply to coaches, athletes, and officials with regard to the right to compete and participate in protected competition.  The Sports Act, however, does not provide National Governing Bodies such as USA Swimming with the unrestricted right to approve and revoke membership.

 

“Here, with regard to Mr. Curl, an ‘emergency hearing’ was set, thus triggering application of section 405.4, which provides if a hearing is ordered, the NBOR ‘shall conduct the hearing’ and publish its results within 21 days.   Even though the NBOR here had no discretion but to conduct a hearing, one was not conducted. Simply stated, the applicable rules were not followed.  Once again, USA Swimming has made up its own rules as it went along. 

 

In sum, the decision made by USA Swimming to suspend Mr. Curl’s hearing is a cop out. In accordance with USA Swimming’s own rules and regulations, following through with the hearing was mandatory. Pressure has presumably been applied by Mr. Curl’s attorney and/or the coaches lobby led by the venerable John Leonard, a close friend to Mr. Curl, and once again USA Swimming has relented.”

 

And, as I mentioned in a prior article, it’s instructive to remember how swiftly USA Swimming acted when their star, Michael Phelps, was caught smoking pot like the tens of millions of other guys his age.

 

An email to attorney Richard Young, outside counsel for USA Swimming, was not answered.

USA SWIMMING SCANDAL – Rick Curl

DRIP, DRIP, DRIP – HOW LONG WAS RICK CURL ON USA SWIMMING’S RADAR? 

“Everybody – coaches, swimmers, everybody – knew about Curl”,  a USA Swimming coach

What did (he) know and when did he know it?” 

This has been the operative query for any investigation into a cover-up – of great or trivial importance – since Senator Howard Baker posed the question during the Watergate hearings nearly forty years ago. 

And, increasingly, it will be the question asked of officials and coaches affiliated with USA Swimming in the wake of continuing allegations of sex abuse committed by member coaches over decades. 

On the heels of last week’s Washington Post story about legendary swim coach Rick Curl who was discovered to have sexually abused a young swimmer, Kelley Davies (now Currin), starting from the time she was 13 years-old,  USA Swimming apparently held an emergency hearing on Monday regarding punitive actions against Curl.  Curl signed a non-disclosure agreement in 1989 with the Davies family in which he paid them $150,000 for the trauma that Davies Currin suffered – resulting in her dropping out of college and going through years of therapy, and who states she was subjected to Curl’s abuse for three years.

There has been no word at this point about Curl from USA Swimming regarding the meeting. 

The agreement between Curl and the Davies-Currin family does not amount to an admission of guilt on Curl’s part; yet the attachment to the agreement contains graphic and detailed descriptions of Curl’s sexual involvement with Davies-Currin, accusations that Curl has never denied. The acts include performing sexual acts on Davies-Currin in her home, on the road at swim meets, and elsewhere while she was between the ages of 13 and 16. 

On the face of it, by conducting an emergency hearing, one may think that USA Swimming is acting in a vigilant manner to rid its sport of a possible criminal. But the more important looming question that needs to examined here – indeed, the text and subtext to the entire tragic saga of abuse by USA Swimming coaches – is why didn’t USA Swimming act earlier when those within the organization – both executives and other high-profile coaches –  may have known about Curl for months or, more likely, years? Why did it take a story in a major newspaper for USA Swimming to act? 

After all, to put matters in perspective, in February, 2009, USA Swimming acted in extremely swift fashion when they suspended Michael Phelps for 90 days for taking a bong hit – something that was not even a technical violation of their policies. 

In sworn testimony during a deposition in 2010, USA Executive Director Chuck Wielgus states that he was at least aware of rumors involving Curl, the lauded coach:

Question:  Is there a file on Rick Curl?

Wielgus: Not — not that I’m — not that I’m aware of.

Question: Are you aware of any settlement that Rick Curl made with his alleged victim?

Wielgus: I have — I have heard, just within the past three to four weeks, that there was some sort of a settlement between Rick Curl and a victim or a victim’s family. And that’s the first I heard of that.

Question: Do you know why he moved to Australia?

Wielgus: I don’t.

Question: Do you know if he moved to avoid criminal prosecution?

Wielgus: I’ll give you the same answer I gave to the last question.

Question: Okay. And you said you learned in the last three to four weeks about some kind of settlement?

Wielgus: I shouldn’t say I learned. I heard a rumor. I — I would equate learning as knowing for sure, as opposed to –

Question: Heard a rumor?

Wielgus: — hearing something. Right, heard a rumor.

Question: Who did you hear the rumor from?

Wielgus: That’s a good question. I don’t recall who I heard the rumor from, but it — I don’t recall who I heard the rumor from. I can’t say.

Question: But the rumor was just to the extent that he paid — he paid a settlement himself, personally? Is that what the rumor was?

Wielgus: No, no. I just — I — I think I heard it in the context of somebody saying that they had seen his name on a blog or something to that effect.  

Even taking Wielgus at his word, that he only heard rumors about a “settlement” regarding Curl, it utterly defies belief that the Executive Director of USA Swimming wouldn’t have investigated further rumors of the worst nature about a coaching legend, a man responsible for gold medals representing the United States’ national swim team.  Either Wielgus acted irresponsibly by not following up on the Curl matter or, more bluntly, there was a cover-up initiated – a lie of omission – to shield the organization from taking another blow to its reputation. 

And consider, amazingly, that Curl had credentials for the Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Nebraska held in late June of this year. Currin told me that she spoke to an investigator from USA Swimming in late April, two months before the Olympic trials and a full three months before USA Swimming decided to take action against Curl. Why was Curl allowed to attend the trials if USA Swimming had all the evidence it needed to at least temporarily suspend the coach? Was 60 days not enough to examine the blatant evidence?  

For Bob Allard, who has successfully settled a case against USA Swimming and is currently representing Currin, there is no doubt that Curl’s activities have been known about for many years.  

Says Allard, “Rick Curl and his propensity to sexually assault minor swimmers for decades was the worst kept secret in the sport.  In my opinion, anyone of significance within USA Swimming has known about Mr. Curl for years but were too afraid to touch it.  When we first started representing sex abuse claimants against USA Swimming over three years ago, Curl’s was one of the first names to pop up.  And his name has been pervasive ever since.  We also have information that three other legendary USA Swimming coaches (names withheld until they are contacted for comment) each knew about Mr. Curl and no one did a thing about him.”  

An email sent to USA Swimming seeking comment on the Rick Curl situation was not answered.

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 On another note, a reader emailed me a thoughtful comment on this ongoing story. He stated that this is a seemingly societal, American issue and brought up the fact that we have a draconian system as it is with dealing with those accused of sexual abuse against children. “But hopefully, we can as a society get away from breathless coverage and demonizing the perpetrators, not because they don’t deserve opprobrium, but because we have already gone down this road for 20 years to little effect.  We have people in South Florida living under bridges because as “sex  offenders” they are literally allowed to live nowhere else.  This helps no one.  Trying to piece together why these things happens scientifically is more likely to help future potential victims.”

This is an instructive comment and bears greater evaluation. While it is my firm belief that it’s critical that victims – from any part of society – come forward with their stories and feel comfortable doing so, we have to also figure out a way to get at the root cause of sexual abuse. After the USA Swimming story comes to some sort of a conclusion – be it days or years from now – it would be beneficial to have a national conversation on not just the punishment of abusers but also how this can be prevented; not just on an awareness level, such as having more monitors around when adults are supervising children, but also by examining our societal DNA, about why it seems to be so prevalent. 

UNITED STATES SWIMMING SCANDAL ARTICLES NOW RE-POSTED HERE

Enclosed in the following posts, in sequence, are all the articles I’ve written regarding the United States Swimming sex abuse scandals and cover-ups. All of these articles were originally published on WBAL’s website but were abruptly removed back in early October due to either internal pressure from their parent network Hearst (which has many NBC affiliates who broadcast the Olympics) or because the stories began to hit too close to home – especially my finally story on the prior abuse at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club by a Hall of Fame coach.  To reiterate – I stand by 100% of every fact and opinion that I’ve written.  I will continue to look for ways to make sure the full story of this Olympic organization’s conduct in this matter is exposed. The embarrassing lack of media attention – or media cowardice is perhaps more accurate – paid to the USA Swimming scandals is especially reprehensible when one considers that its scope far exceeds that of the Penn State crisis. It is my hope that much light will be shed on this corrupt  and powerful organization within the Olympic community that escapes any oversight and which serves as a giant cash machine for those who lead it. 

The reason for the slight delay in the republishing of these articles is that I originally had hoped to be writing for another outlet on this scandal. But the constraints placed upon me proved to be too great and I chose to not sacrifice a shred of integrity in the name of expediency or gutlessness. 

It must also be said that Irv Muchnick of concussioninc.net has done a superb job in his relentless pursuit of the truth regarding USA Swimming. His pointed and illuminating commentary and reporting on the topic is the only other place where one can find information on this scandal. 

Meanwhile … there’s still a woman in Baltimore who may yet speak out of the years of abuse that she and others suffered while at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, and the pathetic non-investigations that both USA Swimming and NBAC conducted … and then there’s the matter of numerous other sexually abusive coaches who continue to avoid any punitive action by USA Swimming … while the entrenched, pathetic crew that helms this Olympic “nonprofit” continues to enjoy the inflated salaries of the non-athletes who oversee the feudal system that is the Olympics.

PDF OF THE NBAC ARTICLE

NBAC article 10-3-12(1)