United States Masters Swimming: Where Old Perverts Make Soft Landings

Published July 16th, 2013, Uncategorized

by Irvin Muchnick


Whenever Congressman George Miller and his colleagues get down to brass tacks in investigating the coach sex abuse pandemic, they will find out that protecting the youth swimmers of America from the calculatedly porous oversight of USA Swimming is just part of the problem.

John Leonard, head of the American Swimming Coaches Association, which sanctions coaches, proudly told us last year that his is not “an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape or form.”

As the Greg Winslow case at Arizona State University and the University of Utah has shown, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its member institutions couldn’t care less what coaches do in their spare time.

Rec clubs, YMCA’s, schools with competitive swim programs … all are under the aegis of USA Swimming only to the small extent that their coaches might be members of that body. Whenever one is busted, the apparatchiks in Colorado Springs offer the most hand-washing interpretation of membership terms, which tend to lapse on and off.

Then there’s a real doozy: Sarasota, Florida-based United States Masters Swimming. Our recent reports show how USMS is always there to provide a soft landing for an otherwise banned coach. See “EXCLUSIVE: Banned Virginia Swim Coach Michael Pliuskaitis Continues Private Instruction for Kids in ‘Swim Club’ and ‘Summer League’,” June 26, http://concussioninc.net/?p=7752; and “Detractors and Defenders of Banned USA Swimming Coach Mike Pluitsaikis Speak Out,” June 27, http://concussioninc.net/?p=7757.

Bill Volckening, former editor of USMS magazines Swim and Swimmer, has come forward to talk about his experience in the seedy masters swim world, which he calls himself fortunate to have put in his rear-view mirror.

“What you’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg,” Volckening told me. “I’m sure you’ve already heard an earful about USA Swimming, the rapists and predators, and all the skulduggery in that organization. From my experience, USMS is even worse, because what people are doing isn’t illegal, but it is reprehensible.”

Volckening knows from reprehensible. He says his high school coach at the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, the late Jeff Lowe, was a pedophile who got dismissed during Volckening’s senior year for inappropriate conduct with a 15-year-old girl. Another coach in the region, John Trembley of Mercersburg Academy, later would be fired by the University of Tennessee for misdeeds that included soliciting underage boys on the Internet. (See “John Trembley Police Report; Documents Released,” SwimSwam, May 4, 2012, http://swimswam.com/john-trembley-police-report-documents-released/.)

Volckening: “In 1998, I moved to Oregon and started coaching masters at Tualatin Hills. I arrived at the same time as Paul Bergen and Sean Hutchison, and knew both of them very well. I saw them every day. During this period, Don King came to Tualatin Hills and was coaching for a brief period. He disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared — mid-season.

“If you’re interested in knowing what happens to the rapists and molesters when they ‘retire’ into the merely seedy but not quite illegal, they join U.S. Masters Swimming — the ‘Shady Pines’ for sexually deviant, alcoholic, morally corrupt people who like to swim.”

According to Volckening, current and former USMS members who are on the USA Swimming banned list include Darek Hahn, Lincoln Djang, Scott Gaskins, Jesse Stovall, Aaron Bartleson, and Brian Williams. “One local favorite among notorious masters swimmers here in Oregon is a guy named David Burleson, an anesthesiologist who went to jail for fondling patients while they were sedated. Dave was a member of the Multnomah Athletic Club Masters, and at one time was suspended for getting caught on club premises in a sexual situation with a woman who was also a member of the masters team.” (See http://www.katu.com/news/local/17067761.html.)

“There is nothing preventing Dave from registering for USMS again when he’s out of jail,” Volckening notes.