by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
The Alex Pussieldi story simmers. The office of the congressperson in the Fort Lauderdale district, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (also chair of the Democratic National Committee), has been prodding local law enforcement agencies to get to the bottom of his activities across a decade and a half with the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Pine Crest School, Nova Southeastern University, and other local institutions. Pussieldi’s kaput Davie Nadadores website no longer can be browsed by ordinary means – even as the erstwhile coach works on Brazilian television in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
This is someone with friends in high places. Just who has been responsible for protecting Pussieldi through scandal after scandal is the subject of much speculation. Observers on the ground in Florida nominate two names as answers to that question – one local, one global.
Locally, the key figure is said to be Norman Tripp, a prominent Fort Lauderdale attorney. The client most tied to the growth of his law firm, TrippScott, was Alamo Rent A Car, whose payments of some fees in the form of stock options helped make Tripp a multimillionaire.. (See Tripp’s video bio at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUnATYbEg8s.)
As his four kids swam for Jack Nelson, the two became close friends. One of Tripp’s most passionate fundraising projects enabled the upgrade of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex into a world-class swimming and diving facility. Nelson, in turn, hired Pussieldi as an assistant in the late 1990s. According to some swimming community sources, at least one local journalist tried hard to report more thoroughly on Pussieldi’s controversies – including the full secret videotaping allegations that were the backdrop of his 2004 physical altercation with a Mexican swimmer. Those sources credit Tripp’s behind-the-scenes fixer skills with keeping Nelson, Pussieldi, and the aquatic complex out of the most lurid headlines.
Internationally, the person who made Pussieldi’s first important connections was a familiar potentate to Concussion Inc. readers: former USA Swimming board president Dale Neuburger – still a board member and a player with FINA, the global swimming body, and with TSE Consulting, which set up Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, with the Turks and has its finger in many pies. Neuburger also is a former board president of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in the Fort Lauderdale complex; there he and Nelson famously engineered the ouster of the museum’s CEO, Sam Freas. (See “Hall in Flames,” Broward-Palm Beach New Times, September 23, 2004, http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/2004-09-23/news/hall-in-flames/. At the bottom of this post, also see the headline links to articles about Neuburger at this site.)
Pussieldi came on the scene in Fort Lauderdale at the same time as the aquatic complex’s big push, and also at the same time Neuburger was looking to make far-flung rich friends among deep-pocketed shieks newly enamored of the Olympic movement. Pussieldi’s portfolio expanded to the leadership of the Kuwaiti national team, and he brought many swimmers back with him to Florida, as well as from his native Brazil and other points in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In October 2010, Fran Crippen, a 26-year-old American open water swimming champion, died during a FINA World Cup 10-kilometer race in the waters off Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Many critics argued that the 86-degree Fahrenheit temperatures in the Gulf of Oman had made it an almost criminally unsafe choice for such a competition. Dubai interests had won the right to host the event through the maneuverings of Neuburger’s consulting company. His conflict of helping the UAE buff its bid at the same time he participated in FINA’s deliberations over that bid went unremarked.
Complete links to Concussion Inc.’s Pussieldi investigation are at http://concussioninc.net/?p=8652.
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