‘Yeah, I Think I’ve Heard the Name’ — What the Late, Disgraced USA Swimming Chief Chuck Wielgus Said About George Gibney in His 2010 Deposition in a Lawsuit by a Victim of Coach Sex Abuse

Published January 14th, 2018, Uncategorized

by Irvin Muchnick

 

A member of the Irish legislature, Maureen O’Sullivan, has contacted Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Jackie Speier for assistance in the campaign to seek the extradition of former Irish Olympic swimming coach George Gibney, the most notorious at-large sex criminal in global sports.

But as I’ve repeatedly emphasized, the Gibney story is also one of official swimdom accountability, in both Ireland and the United States. A good illustration is the May 12, 2010, deposition, taken in Indianapolis, of Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming’s CEO from 1997 until his death last year.

In between, in 2014, Wielgus had had to withdraw from his scheduled induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, after a petition campaign by famed swimmer Diana Nyad and others exposed his passive cover-ups of coach abuse over the years and his specific perjury regarding them in sworn statements to courts — including in this deposition.

In past coverage, Concussion Inc. has pulled passages from the Wielgus deposition. Now, as we cite the passing reference to Gibney therein, we’re publishing the entire transcript, at http://muchnick.net/wielgusdepo.pdf.

On pages 215-16, attorney Jim Curran — representing American swimming abuse victim Brooke Taflinger, whose coach, Brian Hindson, had secretly videotaped his athletes disrobing in the locker room — was running down a rogue’s gallery of accused abusers when there was this interchange:

 

Q Another name I want to throw out to you, George Gibney. Any — does that ring a bell at all?

A That does not ring a bell.

Q Do you know if he’s a USA Swimming swim coach?

A Actually —

Q Gibney.

A — sounds like a — sounds like an Irish — is he an Irish coach?

Q Yes.

A Yeah, I think I’ve heard the name.

Q Was he ever a USA Swimming coach?

A Not — I don’t know the answer to that.

Q You don’t know if he’s a member now?

A I do not know he’s a member now, but he was a coach in Ireland.

Q Is he on either list, flagged or banned?

A I don’t know. I don’t know.

 

Let’s unpack this.

The Wielgus deposition took place almost exactly a month after ABC’s 20/20 had broadcast an investigative report on abuses in swimming, in which Wielgus was interviewed. The sport’s boss acquitted himself so poorly on camera that there was an angry backlash. USA Swimming thereupon announced that it would institute a “safe sport” program and publish at its website the full list of coaches permanently banned for sexual misconduct. At the moment of the Indianapolis deposition, however, this list wasn’t yet in the public domain; Wielgus said it was still being “triple-checked” for accuracy.

Coincidentally, just prior to the Wielgus deposition there was this sequence in the Gibney scenario (per the settlement in our recently concluded Freedom of Information Act case, Muchnick v. Department of Homeland Security, for material from Gibney’s immigration files):

March 18, 2010. The government received information on Gibney’s Irish past from Evin Daly of One Child International in Florida.

March 30, 2010. Gibney, after 16 years as a resident alien, applied for U.S. citizenship.

On July 20, 2010, Customs and Immigration Enforcement would produce a memorandum concluding that the absence of a criminal conviction in Ireland meant that there were no grounds for removing Gibney from the country.

On September 27, 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Services would send Gibney a notice directing him to redo his citizenship application and pay careful attention to answers to questions of whether he had ever been criminally convicted or charged.

On December 2, 2010, Gibney’s citizenship application would be rejected.

So … George Gibney? Yeah, I think I’ve heard the name.

Chuck Wielgus? Yeah, I think I’ve heard that one, too.

John Leonard, executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association? He’s another. He’s the guy who says children have nothing to do with ASCA’s mission “in any way, shape, or form.” No, ASCA just runs a visa legal troubleshooting service for coaches who want to find work abroad.  It also hired Gibney’s former assistant coach, Peter Banks, who has had top positions in both Irish and American swimming, and who today — from his perch at Florida’s Pipeline Swimming, around 100 miles from where Gibney was last spotted hiding in plain sight — refuses to respond to questions.

ASCA — which federal judge Charles R. Breyer had said, in his opinion in our FOIA case, this reporter “suspects … greased the wheels for Gibney’s relocation” from Ireland to the U.S. in 1994.

Gibney had submitted an American coaching job offer letter in conjunction with his 1992 visa application. And he indeed coached for USA Swimming’s North Jeffco club in Arvada, Colorado, a Denver suburb. He didn’t last long: In October 1995 the Arvada Police Department, upon receiving a complaint, “confirmed that Mr. Gibney had been charged with child sexual abuse in Ireland” and “was suspected of possibly pinching (or snapping the swimsuit of) a North Jeffco swimmer…. Shortly thereafter, the APD learned that Mr. Gibney was no longer employed by North Jeffco.”

Gibney would not land on USA Swimming’s banned coaches list when it launched in 2010, shortly after the Wielgus deposition. But if there truly is a coherent, secret “flagged” list (for all we know, Wielgus might have been lying about that, too), then Gibney is surely there in the files of our national sport governing body.

Obviously, USA Swimming, like USA Gymnastics, needs a lot closer scrutiny by the U.S. Congress.

Next: More on what Wielgus said in his deposition about the “banned” and “flagged” lists, and what additional information they likely give us about the American swimming establishment’s enabling and harboring of the monster George Gibney.