USA Gymnastics may not be the only Olympic organization that has a systemic problem with sexual abuse.
A lengthy investigative report from the Southern California News Group ― published Friday at one of the group’s newspapers, the Orange County Register ― says that USA Swimming ignored or covered up hundreds of sexual abuse cases over the course of decades.
The report is reminiscent of the recent USA Gymnastics scandal involving former team doctor and convicted pedophile Larry Nassar ― where the people in power cared only about winning and safeguarding the sport’s image, subsequently protecting and enabling an abuser to prey on young athletes.
The investigation made five principal claims:
- Top USA Swimming executives, officials and coaches knew of multiple sexual predators in coaching positions for years and did nothing to stop it.
- Since 1997, at least 590 alleged victims of sexual abuse have been identified in the USA Swimming world. At least 252 coaches and officials have been arrested, charged or disciplined by USA Swimming for sexual assault or sexual misconduct against athletes under the age of 18. In four of the past six years, “at least 20 swim coaches have been arrested, charged or convicted for sex crimes ranging from rape, sexually assaulting a 3-year-old and 8-year-old, statutory rape, child pornography to secretly videotaping underage swimmers in locker-rooms,” the report notes.
- At least 30 USA swim coaches or officials have been “flagged” by USA Swimming after being accused of or arrested for sexual abuse or child pornography by law enforcement. Most of the coaches and officials on the flagged list were able to continue working in the swim world. Some officials were not banned from the sport even after they had been convicted of felonies.
- Over the years, USA Swimming has been quick to spend money to settle sexual abuse cases before they can hit the public radar. Between 2006 and 2016, USA Swimming spent $7,450,000 on legal fees. It’s not clear how much of that money was spent to settle sexual abuse cases, but SCNG notes that USA Swimming “arranged settlement agreements in at least three states with victims of alleged sexual abuse by swim coaches before the cases were even filed with a court.”
- USA Swimming shelled out over $75,000 to lobbying firms to mobilize against California legislation that would have made it easer for sexual abuse survivors to sue their attackers and the organizations they worked for in civil suits.
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