* Part 1, David Berkoff: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8474
* Part 2, Pablo Morales: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8479
* Part 3, Dick Shoulberg: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8489
* Part 4, USA Swimming loses in California Supreme Court: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8493
by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
John Leonard, the troglodyte executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association, will be left with bus-tire tread marks when USA Swimming argues to the public, not very plausibly, that it is taking adequate steps to correct its culture of coach sexual abuse and cover-up, via a report by child-protection expert Victor Vieth.
From Leonards resistance to David Berkoffs earliest USA Swimming board of directors work in the early 1990s on reforming abuse policies and practices, to Leonards preposterous 2012 email to Concussion Inc. contending that ASCAs mission has nothing to do with kids — the chief certifier of coaching credentials is known to be a voice of unreason in the higher councils of the swimming world.
His latest brazen and clueless stunt was putting swimmer Ariana Kukors on the cover of the ASCA magazine — with an accompanying article written by her coach Sean Hutchison, with whom she has had a personal relationship across an indeterminate segment of her career. Well have a separate post later about that; but for now let us rest with the general observation that Leonard has cast himself irrevocably as the George Wallace of this story: Leonard has done everything short of proclaiming defiantly on camera, Coach grooming and abuse now, coach grooming and abuse forever!
Internal USA Swimming documents show Leonard arguing, time and again, that the main concern should be protecting coaches from false allegations. This is about what wed expect from the head of a coaches trade association. But the problem for Americas youth swimmers and their parents is how much and for how long Leonard has been allowed to overwhelm the global discussion. That discussion was renewed after ABC and ESPN did 2010 exposes of molestation by coaches. Berkoff, a high-profile critic, was recruited for the board, where he joined the faction arguing that the sport needed to change the way we do business. But with Leonardism carrying the day, nothing much changes.
One of the problems certain to be isolated by Congressional and other federal government investigators is that USA Swimming probes of allegations of coach abuse are deliberately designed not to support victims. This remains true, in spades, even in the post-2010 Safe Sport era directed by athlete protection officer Susan Woessner. Amateur sports are grievously out of step with contemporary case law in this field, which increasingly empowers youth-serving organizations, in the name of community safety, to adopt preponderance-of-evidence administrative review standards, such as those used by colleges and universities under Title IX. No matter how many times John Leonard pounds the table and insists to the contrary, USA Swimming is not bound to limit itself to the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard of the criminal justice system. The organization chooses that stance because of institutional and financial interests.
Once again the crime here is not that a Neanderthal like Leonard spews nonsense. The crime is that he consistently establishes prevailing policy within USA Swimming when he states, as he did in a 2011 email, that:
I have from time to time voiced objections to any plan that did not also include protections for the 99.9% of coaches who already work to protect their athletes in [e]very possible way.
(The full document is viewable at http://muchnick.net/leonardemail.pdf.)
Note that the main recipient list of the Leonard email was the then-ASCA director roster. This included some of the top names in the college swimming coaching ranks. For example, Jack Bauerle — the Georgia coach now under suspension in the investigation of the doctoring of academic records of his star Chase Kalisz. And Mary Anne Gerzanick-Liebowitz, the since-fired assistant to her husband Larry Liebowitz at Oregon State. And Dick Shoulberg.
Then there are the cc recipients: USA Swimming CEO Chuck Wielgus and technical vice president David Berkoff. The latter is the person Leonard references as a lawyer with a keenly developed awareness of the importance of the legal system in all of this.
Berkoff has been on the board for more than three years. In that capacity, though he no doubt has said some of the same right things in private that he used to say in public, he has not come close to succeeding — even in the post-2010 cases we have investigated — in eradicating Leonardism from USA Swimmings processes.
Nor has he tried all that hard. When now-jailed molester Rick Curl showed up on the deck at the Olympic Trials in Omaha in 2012, Berkoff by his own account simply turned to his wife and noted that he was surprised. Were surprised, too — first, that Berkoff is such an ineffective technical vice president; second, that his public statements have pivoted completely in the direction of apologizing for the failed institution he was expected to confront and change.
This is why the Vieth report must not be an end point of USA Swimming investigations. It must become a springboard.
One last thought on John Leonard. No one says or thinks that anything close to a majority of swimming coaches are bad guys. But 99.9% of coaches work to protect their athletes in every possible way? Please. If that percentage were anywhere near accurate, there would be no controversy, no 20/20 or Outside the Lines, no Safe Sport rearguard action, no Vieth report, no Congressional investigation.
Follow this space for new installments of our series, Concussion Inc.s Independent Preview of USA Swimmings Independent Review of Its Safe Sport Program.
FURTHER READING ON JOHN LEONARD AND THE AMERICAN SWIMMING COACHES ASSOCIATION: