Leaders of Team USA Swimming reportedly ignored reports of hundreds of children being sexually abused for decades, according to a new report.
The Orange County Register reports that the governing body did little to stop widespread sexual abuse and failed to take the multiple warnings seriously.
Swimming president Ron Van Pool even addressed the issue in 2005 saying that the organization was ‘frightfully behind the curve’ in terms of dealing with abuse cases.
Yet in the more than decade that followed, the organisation didn’t tackle the concerns and sexual abuse of underage swimmers by coaches and executives were so common, it was accepted by top officials, sexual abuse survivors, ex-Olympians and officials told the Register.
The dying wish of USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus, who died from colon cancer in April aged 67, was to have done more to protect swimmers
A former world-record holding Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors has claimed a Team USA coach sexually abused her and took naked photos over her when she was 17
At least 252 coaches and officials at USA Swimming have been arrested, charged or disciplined by USAS for sexual abuse or misconduct against minors. The investigation found that those sexual predators have a total of almost 600 victims.
The organisation has kept a list of around 30 coaches flagged by officials after being arrested or accused of child molestation or watching child porn, but they had not been disciplined by USA Swimming. Many of those of the list, who have been charged, have not been banned.
The Southern California News Group found that in at least 11 cases former executive director Chuck Wielgus or other top officials, declined to take action against the high profile coaches accused, even when the victims complained directly to them.
Susan Woessner, USA Swimming’s current director of Safe Sport, was responsible for some of the decisions not to pursue an investigation, the Register reports.
Former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar listens during his sentencing at Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Michigan. He’s accused of molesting hundreds of athletes
The dying wish of Wielgus, who died from colon cancer in April aged 67, was to have done more to protect swimmers: ‘I wish my eyes had been more open to the individual stories of the horrors of sexual abuse. I wish I had known more so perhaps I could have done more.’
His failure was also criticized by former Olympian Katherine Starr who said that in his position of power, Wielgus had the opportunity to intervene and stop the horrific abuse ‘that has haunted so many.’
‘Chuck could have been a hero… but instead he [was] a coward and single-handedly allowed sexually abusive coaching to thrive for decades in the sport, leaving a wreckage of pain that has caused great harm to many swimmers that has lasted a lifetime.’
Swimming board members also reportedly admit they were aware of statutory rape cases on national team trips to major international competitions.
Investigators have searched the Seattle home of a former US Olympic Team swimming coach Sean Hutchison (pictured) amid the claims
United States’ Ariana Kukors competes in a women’s 200-meter individual medley swimming heat at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the Summer Olympics in London 2012
USA Swimming also reportedly paid $77,627 to lobbying firms to try and prevent legislation in California which would have made it easier for sexual abuse victims to sue their abusers and the organizations they worked for.
The rampant alleged sexual abuse reflect that of the USA Gymnastics team where U.S. Olympic and U.S. women’s national team doctor Larry Nassar has just been accused of sexually assaulting more than 150 young athletes. Many of the women testified that their reports of abuse had been ignored by USA Gymnastics.
‘This Safe Sport thing is a complete farce,’ said Dia Rianda, a swim coach and formerly one of the USA Swimming Foundation’s leading financial contributors. ‘USA Swimming is all about protecting their brand in any way they possibly can.’
‘I can’t sell the Olympic dream anymore because it’s (expletive),’ Rianda said. ‘These people are corrupt and anyone who sits there in a leadership position and allows boys and girls to be sexually exploited, to be manipulated, to be exploited in all kinds of ways just to get that gold medal, it’s wrong and it has to stop.’
B. Robert Allard, a Bay Area attorney who has represented several sex abuse survivors from USA Swimming, says the only way to prevent further abuse is to clean house.
‘If this type of remedial action is justified in USA Gymnastics due to the abuse committed by one pedophile (Nassar), certainly it would be appropriate for USA Swimming where we have well over 100,’ he said.
‘Only then we can ensure that USA Swimming will have leaders in place who take child protection seriously and won’t turn a blind eye to childhood sexual abuse because of a desire to preserve image and reputation and consequently monetary interests.’
Ariana Kukors is one of the many athletes to come forward in recent months to accuse her Team USA swimming coach of abusing her.
The former world-record holding Olympic swimmer said Sean Hutchison sexually abused her and took naked photos over her when she was 17.
Homeland Security taskforce investigators along with police in Washington state served a search warrant at 46-year-old’s apartment, recovering electronic devices they say may contain evidence.
It is alleged he abused his powers as Kukors’ coach, grooming her and then sexually abusing her as a teenager.
Homeland Security launched an investigation on January 30 following a report from Kukors, according to the court documents, the SeattlePI reported.
Kukors, now 28, said in a statement that she went to police to report that Hutchison sexually assaulted her on trips and while training at Seattle area pools.
She told investigators that Hutchison used his position as her longtime coach to ‘groom her’ for sexual abuse.
Kukors said the grooming started at age 13 when he became her coach at King Aquatics, a Seattle-area swim club.
She claims Hutchison started sexually abusing her when she was 16.
Kukors, now 28, said in a statement Wednesday that she went to police to report that Hutchison sexually assaulted her on trips and while training at Seattle area pools
Kukors, the 2009 world champion in the 200m individual medley who placed fifth in that event in the 2012 Olympics, said she came forward to empower other victims.
At the World Championships in Rome, in 2009, she swam the 200m individual medley long course in 2:07.03, before shaving almost a second off her time the following day to break her own world record, setting the new one at 2:06.15.
Her time was beaten by three one-hundredths of a second in 2015 by Hungarian athlete Katinka Hosszú at the 2015 World Championships in Russia.
‘I never thought I would share my story because, in so many ways, just surviving was enough,’ Kukors said.
‘But in time, I’ve realized that stories like my own are too important to go unwritten.
‘Not for the sake of you knowing my story, but for the little girls and boys whose lives and future hangs in the grasp of a horribly powerful and manipulative person.
‘That they may not have to go through the same pain, trauma, horror, and abuse.
‘That their parents, mentors, and guardians are better able to spot the signs of grooming and realize its tragic consequences before it’s too late.’
Former local swim coach Rick Curl, 63, center, leaves the Montgomery County Circuit Court in 2013 after entering a guilty plea for child sexual abuse for a relationship, starting in 1983, with a swimmer he was coaching. He is one of hundreds of coaches charged with child sex abuse at the organisation
Hutchison, who was an assistant coach on the 2008 US Olympic team, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.
In a search warrant affidavit, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent said investigators responded to claims that Hutchison took sexually explicit photos of Kukors more than a decade ago.
Hutchison was a US Olympic swimming coach in California at the time, a position from which he resigned in 2010 amid speculation that he was sexually involved with a swimmer.
Hutchison denied it at the time, saying ‘there is no truth to that,’ and insisting his departure was a long-planned move to form his own pro team.
Hutchison is currently listed as the CEO of King Aquatics.
Jancy Thompson also chased the Olympic dream to find it end in horror.
By December 1997, aged 15, she was being sexually abused and humiliated by her coach who once forced her to wear a dog collar as she swam and ‘walked her’ down the pool.