by Tim Joyce
Concussion Inc. has learned of a current secret investigation by USA Swimming of a coach in Nevada who earlier served an 18-month suspension for sexual abuse and other improprieties, and went on to coach in five states.
Coach Dustin Perry is currently under investigation for his actions with a team in Pocatello, Idaho. Despite the existence of this investigation, which is being coordinated by USA Swimming’s controversial consultant, former FBI agent Paulette Brundage, Perry was able to move to Nevada and secure yet another new job in club swimming.
The interconnections of the Perry file add up to perhaps the most devastating portrait yet of not only the failures of USA Swimming’s historical efforts to eradicate sexual exploitation by coaches of youth athletes, but also the speed and resolve and good faith of the organization’s top officials in viewing this issue as more than a public relations problem.
For unlike in well-publicized cases such as that of Rick Curl, who drew public announcements of “emergency hearings” and “provisional suspensions,” USA Swimming has been investigating Perry in secrecy while child-protection expert Victor Vieth prepares to submit a commissioned internal review of its Safe Sport program, which was implemented in 2010. Meanwhile, Congressional investigators await a report from the Government Accountability Office on the legislative background of the abuse epidemic in amateur sports.
The Perry investigation came to light only because this reporter was verifying facts about the oldest known case against him — a 2002-03 investigation of misconduct in 2000. In the process, I discovered that old findings, along with other allegations and their aftermath, are now part of a live investigative file.
The facts and allegations in the collective cases are so serious and disturbing that one witness stated to investigator Brundage: “If USA Swimming isn’t careful they’ll have another Jerry Sandusky on their hands.”
The Perry narrative touches on almost every conceivable angle of the generation-old USA Swimming abuse scandals:
· The allegations against Perry at the Extreme Aquatics club in Edmond, Oklahoma, included participating in a hazing incident in which naked boys were locked outside a dormitory room, and another incident in which three boys, wearing only socks on their genitals, ran in front of parent-chaperones. Images of the latter event were also shown by Perry on a cell phone. In addition, it is alleged that Perry supplied underage boys with alcohol on a trip to a swim meet, and allowed underage boys to gamble on one such trip to Las Vegas.
· Right around the time parents lodged these complaints in Oklahoma, Perry relocated to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he became a coach at the Valley Area Swim Team (VAST). It is unknown if VAST knew of the allegations.
· While conducting their Oklahoma investigation – which bizarrely resulted in only an 18-month suspension – USA Swimming discovered that Perry had been abruptly terminated from his previous job at the YMCA in Oklahoma City, 1994-1998.
· According to sources, Perry emailed USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus that he was “sorry” for his actions. At the same time, Perry told Wielgus he had accepted a position with coach Jack Simon — a member of the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame — in Mexico during the pendency of Perry’s USA Swimming suspension.
In an email today, Perry wrote: “Just FYI, it was 2000 and still bitter about this accusation!” Concussion Inc. has not connected on the phone with Perry, but if he ever elaborates by either phone or email, we will reflect those comments in future posts. Perry will be asked to explain, for starters, how being “bitter” squares with the expressions of remorse to USA Swimming officials that helped pave the way for his reinstatement .
Following his 2003 suspension, Perry was reinstated by USA Swimming and became a coach at the Walla Walla (Washington) Swim Club.
From May 2009 until December 2013, Perry coached for Tiger Aquatic Club in Pocatello, Idaho. Perry replaced Bobby Goldhan, who himself was an abusive swim coach and would commit suicide.
Since April of 2013, the LSC, or Local Swim Committee, in Idaho has been aware of complaints against Perry – ranging from sexual harassment to threatening and retaliatory behavior. After much delay, USA Swimming’s Brundage finally started to interview concerned parties in Pocatello late last summer and has spoken in the last two weeks with witnesses. According to one of the witnesses, Brundage said she was “surprised” when she was told that Perry had moved from Pocatello to Carson City.
The Perry file raises many questions about USA Swimming:
Why didn’t Brundage know of Perry’s recent move at a time when serious allegations were under investigation regarding an allegedly recidivist offender?
How was Perry able to get hired in Carson City?
What was the rationale for the 18-month suspension? According to sources, Perry agreed to undergo counseling. But would such a step (evidently concurrent with or following his stint in Mexican exile with Jack Simon) be sufficient to reinstate Perry in good graces and with no apparent follow-up or oversight?
When Perry went to Walla Walla, did the swim club have ample information on his prior actions and suspension? I spoke with several sources in Pocatello who say that the answer for the swim team board there was no — there was no trace of his troubled history.
In coming days we’ll also have more details on the Perry cases — including his murky history of housing underage boys.