USA Swimming President sent out a carefully crafted letter warning coaches, moms, and dads that Outside Magazine was about to do a 13-page scathing report on the organizations handling of the sexual abuse issues within the sport. The letter is posted at the bottom of this blog post.
Fact: USA Swimming knew of the article and would not meet with the Outside magazine writer to explain their position - Rumor has it on Twitter that the writer was told Chuck Wielgus was too busy dealing with Michael Phelps' DUI to respond. If the subject of a scathing child abuse report about the organization is of lesser significance than a star swimmer's DUI arrest then an organization definitely has its priorities wrong.
Fact: USA Swimming knew about these child sex abuse issues long before 2010. Evidence is there to prove it.
Here is an email from David Berkoff who is a current USA Swimming board member and even he sent Mike Saltzstein, a former vice President at USA Swimming, a note mentioning his frustrations that nothing was being done:
Fact: Here is a letter written by a victim in 2003 warning of a terrible pedophile named Andrew King who was tormenting swimmers. Instead of calling the police or contacting the victim, Executive Director, Chuck Wielgus decided to cover it up and keep the email as secret as possible. As a result Coach King was subsequently able to molest dozens of kids before his capture and sentencing in 2010. He was sentenced to 40-years due to the severity.
With that in mind note the comment Wielgus makes in point number-four regarding the abuse claim by the author: "This matter should be kept confidential by you and us..." Right there is the smoking gun. They knew circa 2003 at the very latest and consciously decided to hide it from view.
Fact: We have two executives claiming to know quite well that serial abuse was rampant in the sport and the policy was to hide it, cover it up and do nothing.
When confronted with all this evidence and then asked to respond, this is what the executive Director of USA Swimming stated on the news program 20/20:
If you watched the video Wielgus mentions that he does not want to blame the victims but his very next sentence he goes on to blame the victims. Amazingly enough, even after "apologizing this year" he has refused to resign and allow the organization to reboot.
The letter below sent on behalf of USA Swimming President Jim Sheehan constantly refers to a turning point for the organization in 2010. This infers an acknowledgement that that the organization failed and has changed but has it really?
Let's define what a true turning point is. When you apologize, you admit guilt, you take responsibility to make it right and this includes settling claims and doing your best to fix the past.
Fact: USA Swimming not only refused to take responsibility for the past but they even successfully lobbied Governor Jerry Brown in California from signing a bill that would have allowed abuse victims the right to sue their abusers via an extension to the statute of limitations law. After the veto it was only then that Wielgus apologized ensuring no responsibility would be or could be ever taken.
USA Swimming lobbied hard against this bill along with the Catholic church - Governor Brown, a former Jesuit priest sided with both organizations rather than the victims. However, unlike USA Swimming, the Catholic church has settled a good deal of claims whereas there is no evidence that USA Swimming settled any.
Here is what the bill was all about:
To condense the purpose of SB 131 into one sentence: "... This legislation would provide a one-year revival window from 2014-14 for certain victims who were previously barred [due to a legislative error] the right to seek justice for the abuse they suffered as children. ..."
[Link]Several journalistic organizations, and non-profits have criticized, written about, or produced negative media about USA Swimming's child protection policies and Chuck Wielgus himself. ABC News 20/20 did a special, ESPN's Between the lines as well. The Womens Sports Foundation circulated a petition which led Executive Director Chuck Wielgus to remove his name from being inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. The New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News, Associated Press, The Orange County Register, and now Outside Magazine have shouted as loud as they can that this organization has issues and needs new leadership. Even Congressman Miller of California sent a stern letter to the FBI calling for the organization to be investigated and the FBI responded with an aggressive warning to USA Swimming demanding they get their act together .
How many reputable organizations have to expose USA Swimming till the members and coaches within the organization realize the governing body needs a thorough reboot and new management? Even the government is NOT happy with them yet the USOC and the members refuse to see what a dangerous manager Chuck Wielgus is.
I look forward to the Outside magazine and I hope it wakes up an apathetic and slumbering membership.
The excuses in the Sheehan letter below remind me of a cult leader telling it's flock to pay no attention to the truth.
To all USA Swimming Clubs:
Sent on Behalf of Jim Sheehan, USA Swimming President
The December issue of Outside magazine features a 13-page story titled “Unprotected,” describing USA Swimming’s handling of abuse cases. USA Swimming officials and Safe Sport facts were represented in the article, but the focus has a decidedly negative slant as the main sources are an abuse victim and her attorney.
We expect the story to reach subscribers this week and the issue will be on newsstands starting November 11, for one month. Outside has a subscriber base of approximately 690,000.
Anna Strzempko’s story reveals the dynamics by which child sexual abuse in sport can occur and the devastation it can cause. One child hurt is one too many.
We now understand those issues much clearer and have learned to better address the problem of abuse. We have come a long way since 2010.
Despite the length of the in-depth article, the full story of USA Swimming and its Safe Sport program was not told. With a heavy concentration on the past, readers were not given an accurate picture of the organization’s current state.
This was a missed opportunity to share how USA Swimming members and their parents now have more resources than ever to prevent or stop an abusive situation.
We started a new chapter in 2010 with the creation of Safe Sport and have worked tirelessly to minimize the risk that any child could be victimized. Safe Sport is now an essential part of our responsibility to our 400,000 members, with the continued introduction of new programming, educational tools and outreach efforts. USA Swimming has extended protections for reporters of abuse and formed a victim’s assistance fund.
The process works successfully to address and sanction violations consistently. Survivors not included in the story can share how our organization played a key role in helping them through a difficult time in their lives.
We are proud of our Safe Sport program and are committed to safety of our membership. The ‘bad guys’ are those who gain the trust of our children and manipulate relationships to abuse them. We must work collectively to keep our children safe from harm.
There was a mention late in the Outside article of an FBI meeting with USA Swimming. When representatives met informally during an industry conference late this summer, it was to discuss how the two organizations can collaborate to develop educational and other programming to prevent child exploitation. The conversation was unequivocally unrelated to the handling of abuse cases and that topic was not mentioned in the meeting.
Attached is information for your use regarding the Outside story, USA Swimming’s Safe Sport program, a December 2013 memo about USA Swimming’s insurance program and a planned letter to the editor of Outside. For more, visitwww.usaswimming.org/protect/
I wanted you have this in advance of the article becoming public and I hope that you find it helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.