JOYCE: Abuse Victims’ Anti-Chuck Wielgus Swimming Hall of Fame Petition Is Just the Start

Published May 30th, 2014, Uncategorized

Complete headline links to our coverage of the victims’ petition, through the Women’s Sports Foundation, to the International Swimming Hall of Fame are at the bottom of the post “Chuck Wielgus Belongs in the Hall of Justice, Not the Hall of Fame,” http://concussioninc.net/?p=9174.

Later today: Full text of Wielgus’s statement in defense and that of a group of former USA Swimming board presidents – followed by pointers to stories in the Concussion Inc. archives establishing Wielgus-USA Swimming’s generation-long pattern of covering up sex abuse.

 

by Tim Joyce

As USA Swimming flails in the wake of the sex abuse survivors’ appeal to deny Chuck Wielgus enshrinement in the International Swimming Hall of Fame, it is imperative to remember that even if this petition is successful – and a powerful symbol it would be – the organization as a whole still needs to be held accountable for decades of denial and cover-up.

Banishing Chuck Wielgus would be a tremendous start, but keeping him out of ISHOF is only the beginning.

Accountability does not mean an “independent” analysis of the Olympic governing body. We’ve seen that pathetic show play out already with the Vieth Report, the coldly insulting essence of which was to manifestly equivocate the issues – i.e., USA Swimming has done some good things and some bad things, and here’s where we can do better.

The review by Victor Vieth of the Gundersen Health System’s National Child Protection Training Center also had the audacity to claim that USA Swimming had conducted significant outreach to victims. That did not square with the conversations Irv Muchnick and I have conducted with dozens of victims. Looking back, maybe that’s what Vieth was paid so handsomely for: finding that sole victim whom USA Swimming could claim to care so much about.

Nor does accountability translate into USA Swimming touting their “Safe Sport” “initiatives.” For no matter how hard they spin this supposedly aggressive program to root out sexual predators, time and again – and again – we are witness to proof that USA Swimming does the bare minimum, if that, when it comes to investigating even current cases.

As the recent files in Massachusetts and in the nationwide trail of Dustin Perry complaints show, we’re not just talking about the past. Look no further than safe sport director Susan Woessner vowing to “right the wrong” in the scot-freedom of long-time human trafficker and abuser Alex Pussieldi – then writing to Florida parent-coach J.P. Cote (with a face that could have been kept straight only with great contortions) that she didn’t realize that Cote and his wife last year complained of retaliation against them for filing police and USA Swimming reports on an episode of inappropriate touching of a boy swimmer on the deck of a meet in 2012.

Woessner’s hollow expressions of concern are insolent utterances from the “lipstick on the pig” that is USA Swimming PR. Ask the many victims and their families who have interacted with Woessner if they believe she has been vigilant about fixing this mess. From the scores, perhaps hundreds of articles on abuse cases chronicled at Concussion Inc., Muchnick and I have yet to receive a single comment from a victim’s family who say they were treated with great care by USA Swimming.

Finally, accountability does not just mean the unlikely scenario of accepting the resignations of Wielgus, Woessner, and the entire USA Swimming corporate staff – though that would be a giant step towards the goal.

No, accountability must come in the form of a transparent and public federal investigation, hopefully via the current Congressional inquiry currently ongoing in the office of Rep. George Miller’s Education and the Workforce Committee staff. As has been stated on this site countless times, Congress created the organizational structure of the United States Olympic Committee and its governing bodies. And our elected national legislators must be responsible for the solution. Anything short of governmental involvement will be justifiably viewed as an abandonment of responsibility to the many victims and their families. The feds need to do what the state of Pennsylvania did with Penn State – firings, financial punishment, criminal inquiries.

As an observer of this mess recently put it to me, “The best-kept secret money making machine is amateur sports.  It’s the only profession that utilizes free labor.” That is an accurate statement: the vast majority of Olympic athletes rarely see a dime for the exhaustive years spent perfecting their craft. The Michael Phelpses of the world are the miniscule percentage of Olympians) – in contrast with the massive wealth and luxury lifestyle of executives and bureaucrats like Chuck Wielgus, the $908,432-a-year man.

While Wielgus collects his annual mil, there is no relief – symbolic or otherwise – in the lives of Randy and Lisa Burt, the parents of Sarah Burt who signed the petition spearheaded by Nancy Hogshead-Makar.

As I wrote about in one of my very first articles on the swimming scandals more than two years ago, Sarah, age 16, killed herself.