USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming in the US, banned at least 36 coaches over the past decade for “sexual misconduct” involving the young athletes they train, an investigative news report has found.
ABC News has found that “dozens” of teens have been the victims of abuses ranging from fondlings to assaults to being videotaped in the shower.
While allegations surrounding sexually abusive swim coaches have been around for some time, the full extent of the problem hasn’t been known. Indeed, ABC’s own report suggests that the numbers they compiled may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Indiana swim coach Ken Stopkotte told the network that he has been aware of numerous allegations for all 27 years he has been a coach.
“It’s something that coaches talk about all the time,” he says.
The article lists a number of convictions for sex offenses against swim coaches, including a San Jose coach sentenced to 40 years for abusing “at least a dozen” girls, and an Indiana coach who got 33 years for videotaping girls in gym showers.
USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus defended the organization, saying that the problem is “not nearly as serious in USA Swimming as it might be in the rest of society. … I don’t want to be the one to sit here and say 36 is not too many, one is too many, but this is not just a problem that’s isolated to one sport.”
He noted that USA Swimming has been affiliated with 12,000 coaches over the past decade.
The organization has been in the spotlight recently over allegations of sexual abuse. Last month, Olympic gold medalist Deena Deardurff Schmidt said she had been the victim of repeated abuse by her coach over a four-year period in the 1960s. She said her complaints to USA Swimming went unheeded, and the coach went on to train other girls.
Stung by the criticism, the organization said it would introduce a tougher screening process for coaches.
The latest allegations about USA Swimming come on the heels of several sex-abuse scandals involving high profile organizations. The Vatican has been under extreme pressure over numerous allegations it did nothing about — or even protected — abusive priests.
In one now infamous case, it was alleged that Pope Benedict XVI, while still a cardinal, refused to defrock a Wisconsin priest accused of abusing some 200 boys at a school for the deaf.
In another case, a man in Portland, Oregon has sued the Boy Scouts for $29 million, saying the organization did nothing to remove an abusive scoutmaster, even after he admitted to abusing 17 boys. During the course of that trial, it emerged the Boy Scouts had identified 1,600 individuals between 1965 and 1985 who were “unfit” to work with children, the majority of them on account of “perversion.”