Second time in a week that several bloggers, which I include myself, have been called out for not towing the "party line, or the "USA Swimming message."
Let's start with the criticism we bloggers got from Swim News.
From Swim News:
"...There is contradiction to overcome: among those screaming for action against USA Swimming in the crisis over sexual abuse and banning of coaches are those who scream just as loudly that it is wrong to ask questions about clear and significant anomaly in the race pool (even though the winner may well herself be a victim of abuse, as has been the case many a time over in swimming history). ..."
Yes, Bloggers like myself are definitely "screaming" at the injustices of child rapes, and cover-ups. Yes, we are also shouting at silly men like John Leonard who rhetorically questioned a particular Chinese swimmer's extraordinary performance to a British tabloid rather than to professionals whose job it is to gate guard the sport from doping. Such organizations include the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but definitely not a tabloid newspaper owned by Rupert Murdock and his ilk. For those that do not know who Murdock is, he is that Commonwealth export that brought America the FOX News network and phone hacking journalism to Great Britain.
Next, Craig Lord makes a very odd statement that the "...winner may well herself be a victim of abuse ..." This is quite a curious statement indeed. In fact, let's just get her name out there to be specific, shall we? Her name is Ye Shiwen and not once has she stated that she was ever a victim of sexual abuse or otherwise. The only organization I know that is questioning if she was abused is a tabloid called the Daily Mail, again, a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdock.
Onto USA Swimming:
In a fax sent to clubs, USA Swimming sets up a straw man argument that suggests that any blogger or website that states negative information exists only for the sole purpose of undermining USA Swimming. Hence USA Swimming has branded us as liars, discontents or those with ulterior motives.
From a FAX sent to me by a reader who views this blog favorably:
3. What is USA Swimming doing about various websites that continue to distribute negative information about USA Swimming and some of its volunteer and staff leaders?
USA Swimming recognizes that there are a few websites that seem to exist expressly for the purpose of trying to undermine and embarrass USA Swimming and some of its volunteer and staff leaders. These websites frequently publish inaccurate and intentionally misleading information and we believe most people see these websites for what they are. As such, with few exceptions, USA Swimming has elected not to engage them with any comments or public debate. In the case of news sites that traditionally cover the sport, we have begun to aggressively correct information that is wrong or misleading with the appropriate editors.
4. When a website or blogger distributes incorrect or misleading information about USA Swimming or any of its volunteer or staff leaders, how are we responding?
There are no requirements that bloggers “fact check” their postings, and we have found that attempts to set the record straight are usually ineffective. This has only served to reinforce our decision not to engage in a dialogue with these websites or bloggers. Although we do not publicly respond to these website or bloggers, USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton and senior staff will always be happy to respond to any individual member’s questions about the content of these sites.
5. How should we respond when coaches, officials or others talk negatively or express concerns about USA Swimming or its volunteer and staff leaders?
At a minimum, a reasonable response is to tell people not to believe everything they read, and to understand that especially with sensitive issues and legal matters, that USA Swimming’s leaders are frequently unable to make public statements. We should also be encouraging people look at the Safe Sport report card that was released during the recent USAS Convention. This report provides positive examples of the effectiveness of the Safe Sport program. Also, please take some time to familiarize yourself with the Safe Sport section We are always willing to listen to concerns and constructive criticism from our members and we encourage you to do the same. When you can correct false information you are empowered to do so. Additionally, USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton has continually expressed his willingness to listen to and talk with members who have concerns. Likewise, members of the senior staff team in Colorado Springs are also available and are happy to listen to and talk with members about their concerns.
Point number three in the fax above is a "straw man argument." Let me demonstrate: USA Swimming begins the paragraph with prejudice and malice to brand bloggers like myself as spreading lies, linking to lies and doing no fact checking. Well, it wasn't a lie when I published that the Executive director of USA Swimming makes about $636,000 a year: [Link] - [2008 Form 990 Link]
It wasn't a lie when I stated Chuck Wielgus covered up a sexual abuse complaint that was sent directly to him by a young swimmer crying for help. His response to CBenton@[...] was "...This matter should be kept confidential between you and us." [Link]
It wasn't a lie when I published the accusation that the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) was not incorporated correctly which had both the writer of this blog and Sarah G. threaten with a lawsuit. Their CEO later had to admit under oath in a deposition that none of what Sarah and I posted was incorrect but rather it was all true: [Link] - [Leonard Deposition - Link]
I don't lie and my goal is to make swimming better and we bloggers have made a HUGE difference. In fact USA Swimming has made huge strides once we tore into them but they have a "giant wart" in the way towards future respectability and I will get to that in a minute.
Point number four: When I make an error I have a history of correcting it as soon as possible and acknowledging that error. When facts change, I change! That is why I make corrections and so do most bloggers when found to be in error. I don't secretly delete a post like it never happened. I admit my mistakes and I apologize. This nonsense that USA Swimming can't contact me to correct a blog post is bologna because most of my posts have reference links.
Point number five: When an organization tells you to contact them to clarify or the willingness to accept a constructive criticism, contact them early and often. If you read something on my blog that seems fishy, contact me and I will explain it or correct it if needed. Doing so has made me untouchable to lawsuits. Just ask John Leonard. If you read something that seems "rock solid" and negative towards USA Swimming and you are worried about it then contact Bruce Stratton and ask questions then weigh the two arguments. You might be surprised as to who has a better grasp on the facts.
As to that wart:
Five years ago USA Swimming was free from lawsuits, bloggers and rogue websites that fancy those cool Guy Fawkes images. There were no lawsuits pending against USA Swimming whatsoever and the focus was all about swimming and that guy named Michael Phelps.
Then as a result of questionable leadership that included a marketing program with Speedo and a coach named Mark Schubert, USA Swimming found themselves in an anti-trust lawsuit with Orange County swimsuit manufacturer, TYR. Within a year or so then came the sex abuse lawsuits; (plural), and the 20/20 news program which eviscerated any credibility the Executive Director had outside of USA Swimming.
USA Swimming then responded with a safe athlete program because they had to but it took 2-years-plus to become marginally effective but ultimately it was the bloggers and the media that made that happen. But while that program was getting organized some high profile coverups were exposed such as the Wielgus email posted above which became not only a dead albatross around the neck of the USA Swimming but has become a "MRI magnet" for further lawsuits.
In a post I wrote some weeks ago titled: What should have been USA Swimming's finest hour was shouted down by two middle-aged women!
I wrote therein: There is a term called "falling on your sword" - The literal sense means to commit suicide but the figurative usage is when a CEO, a politician or a general in the military takes personal responsibility or the blame for an organizational error by quitting or leaving that organization and taking all the shame and blame with them. This allows the organization to "reboot" and be looked at anew and given a second chance to catch it's breath and do the right thing.
Since Chuck Wielgus refused to take the "noble knight" way out and allow USA Swimming to look like a credible organization moving forward. Wielgus chose to be selfish in my opinion and as a result USA Swimming will never be granted a trust mandate it could have reserved for it will always be plausible that they are hiding something.
Hence, the lawyers won't go away, the bloggers will double in size and disparaging us is in no way going to remove the albatross but rather inspire us to fight the good fight.
If you have made it this far, ask yourself this, am I lying?