‘I Don’t Know George Gibney and He Has Never Been a Member of Florida Swimming’

Published January 11th, 2018, Uncategorized

by  Irvin Muchnick

 

Reverberating the rhetoric of denial now evident at both USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming, the head of one of the national swim body’s regional affiliates has told Concussion Inc. “I do not know” George Gibney “and our records show that he has never been a member of Florida Swimming.”

Gibney, of course, is perhaps the most notorious at-large sex criminal in global sports. He is currently the target of a renewed campaign to seek his extradition on dozens of abuse allegations in Ireland, as well as criminal prosecution for his documented 1991 rape of one of his swimmers in Tampa, Florida — three years before Gibney began a mysterious quarter-century-long odyssey as a U.S. resident alien.

Ira Klein, chair of Florida Swimming, made the statement above in an email to me this morning. Below you will find more on Klein’s curious history of correspondence with us.

But first let’s focus on the person to whom the query about Gibney was actually directed: Peter Banks, currently a coach at Florida Swimming’s Pipeline Swimming club — once a close colleague of Gibney and more recently the boss of Swim Ireland.

Though Banks’s own back and forth and back and forth Irish-American curriculum vitae doesn’t establish any active wrongdoing on his part, it certainly establishes that his current stony silence is inexplicable, if not irresponsible.

Pipeline Swimming has locations in Tampa Palms, New Port Richey, and East Lake Woodlands, Florida. When Banks did not respond to our emails asking him about Gibney, I tried Pipeline’s owner and head coach, Rene Piper, and met with a similar lack of success. I then sought the help of Florida Swimming’s Klein.

At https://www.teamunify.com/Contact.jsp?team=flteamp, Banks publishes a biography that confirms his start, 1976-78, as assistant director of the Newpark Sports Centre in Dublin and assistant coach for George Gibney’s Trojan Swim Club there.

Banks moved to Florida, where he trained at least one former Gibney elite swimmer. Banks’s prize development, however, was Brooke Bennett, an American who became a gold medalist at two Summer Olympics: Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. For the latter, Banks served on the national Olympic coaching staff; he had had to earn U.S. citizenship in order to qualify for it.

From 2001 to 2004, Banks directed the American Club Swimming Association, an affiliate of the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) under executive director John Leonard.

In 2009 Banks moved back to Ireland as high performance director of the national swim program. Previously known as the Irish Amateur Swimming Association, it had been rebranded as Swim Ireland following exposure of a history of coach sex-abuse scandals featuring, among others, Gibney, Derry O’Rourke, and Frank McCann, and detailed in 1998 by the Irish government’s Murphy Commission.

Banks left Swim Ireland and returned to Florida in 2016.

He is an inductee of the ASCA Hall of Fame.

*****

While fish is brain food and fish live in the water, there are indications that Ira Klein, chair of Florida Swimming, might be something less than the fastest fin in the brain trust of American swimming.

In 2012, I canvassed the board of directors of ASCA after executive director Leonard told me: “We do not have an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape or form, according to our formative documents from 1958 and thereafter.”

Board member Klein responded at length to my solicitation. I published the full text at http://concussioninc.net/?p=5872. Here it is again:

 

Mr. Muchnick:

I don’t believe we have ever met, much to my pleasure.  You do a great job of putting together prose but do nothing to stem the tide of a scurrilous problem that so many good men and women are working desperately to eradicate.  You are correct in your quote of evil triumphing when good men fail to act, you sir must not be a good man for I have never seen you act to improve this situation that you seem to think you are bringing to a forefront.  I have never seen your name on a ballot for a position on either the ASCA or the USA Swimming Board.  Instead you seem to have the notion that your McCartheist style will somehow be productive in bringing about change or help save even one individual.

You are mistaken, all you do is stir up the masses who like you are willing to scream about the problem but never offer one solution or are ever willing to take a single step forward to fight for good over evil.  Try reading Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech from April 1910, he speaks of those who sit on the sideline, willing to point fingers but never having the courage to stand up for fear that they might not succeed.  So many good men have been maligned by lowlife bloggers who feel impunity hiding behind their screens, thinking they are anonymous and therefor both untouchable and even worse, right.  I have never seen you or any of your ilk stand up even once at an ASCA meeting or USAS House of Delegates and ask to be counted in the war against such acts.  I have only read your diatribe in blogs and letters condemning the good for not doing enough even more than you condemn the bad for what they have done.

ASCA was possibly the first association to create a coaches code of conduct, followed closely by USA Swimming.  USA Swimming was one of the first, if not the first NGB to institute background checks.  For decades, when given legal information, USA Swimming has always taken the zero tolerance stand and fought to protect our athletes.  It is easy in a blog or letter to call for action, but good men are compelled to follow the law, to obey the rules.  You sir can easily call for a new Salem witch hunt, but honest people will have to wait as actual laws need to be followed.

Why does it seem so bleak for USA Swimming, because we do not sweep under any rug these misdeeds within our ranks.  When presented with legal information we do not shirk from our duty but forge ahead to complete our tasks, while you do nothing more than write about the courage of others. Do you really think that all bad people have found a home at swimming, that coaches in other organizations have a higher moral standard than those few who besmirch our great organization?  No, the difference is that we have taken the hardline and set up avenues to root them out and banish them from our ranks.  Your question should be why haven’t the other organizations been as transparent and relentless as ours has been.

You talk about the relationship between the two organizations, forged mainly by coaches willing to donate their time and energy to both organizations.  What time and effort have you donated?  I remember the meetings where ASCA Board members toiled to bring about a singularly unique document, our Code of Conduct.  I also remember the open forum meetings that had a thousand coaches debating over what should or should not be included both in our code as well as our education.  Sir, I believe I missed your participation in those at the time.

Mr. Muchnick these are serious times and we need serious people to help lead both USA Swimming as well as the ASCA.  We need good people who quote facts, not just lawyers who lie with ease, and writers who have the desire to properly inform rather than making believe they are actually part of some reform that exists only in their mind.

You apparently have never met or spent any time with Coach Shoulberg, if you had you would know that he is as honest, humble and honorable as any man can be, you don’t need all accounts to know that.  In the case of Penn St., which has been proven in a court of law, a coach had been reported to people higher at that institution for the possibility of wrong doing in his actions with minors.  What ensued there has never been the case within our organization and your willingness to compare the two shows either your lack of knowledge or worse your willingness to completely disregard the correct information.

As a former President of the ASCA as well as Vice President of USA Swimming as well as former staff at USA Swimming I find your use of the word collusion beyond offensive.  There are no clandestine meetings between the organizations.  The discussions between them are how do we better educate our coaches, what can we do to improve swimming and from both sides, what can we do to help each other.  Any coach of which there are but a few, who have served on both boards have done so as independent members of each organization, willing again to donate their time and energy to better the sport, protect the athletes, ensure the future.  There are no private meetings between the two boards to focus on any cover ups as you seem to be intimating in this letter.

Mr. Muchnick if you really want to make things better, run for a board, stand up and be heard in person, don’t write useless letters to congress but do help write further legislation with USA Swimming to better protect our athletes, coaches and officials.  Put down your keyboard and come out from the shadows, stand in the light of day and make serious efforts to better the future.  I will await with anticipation to see if you follow through with any of that, but you will excuse me if I don’t hold my breath while waiting.

Respectfully,

Ira Klein

Head Coach Sarasota Tsunami Swim Team