On June 3rd, the Swimming Hall of Fame rescinded Chuck Wielgus’s membership, due to his failure to address sexual abuse of young female swimmers. The story was featured on the front page of USA Today sports here.
We’re now asking to amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. Sec. 220501 et seq., to protect girls and women from sexual abuse in club and Olympic sports, the same way that Title IX protects females against abuse in schools and that Title VII protects employees.
In addition, we’re asking that those responsible for perjury and cover up of multiple instances of sexual abuse to be held responsible. As the formal petition on behalf of 19 sexual abuse victims to the Swimming Hall of Fame made clear, USAS and Chuck Wielgus arguably committed perjury and covered up sexual abuse, violating 18 U.S.C. 1621-1622 and 18 U.S.C. Code 1001 and 1519 and other laws.
Why is this important?
19 victims of coaching sexual abuse and 29 stalwarts of the swimming community led a successful protest against Chuck Wielgus’ induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, led by the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Chuck Wielgus has been the Executive Director of USA Swimming for the last 17 years, earning $908,432.00 in 2012, yet he did not adequately combat sexual abuse during his tenure. For example, in 2002, while Wielgus was still Executive Director, USA Swimming settled a claim for childhood sexual abuse with a 13 y/o sexual abuse victim of Havercroft for, reportedly, $400,000. Yet, 8 years later in 2010, Chuck Wielgus denied under penalty of perjury that USA Swimming had any knowledge of prior claims or allegations of sex abuse against Havercroft. Worse, USA Swimming and Wielgus allowed Havercroft to continue coaching and molesting Jancy Thompson, even though USA Swimming coaches and directors knew Havercroft was being investigated by the police for childhood sexual abuse as early as 1997.
Havercroft has never been banned or sanctioned by USA Swimming.
As of May 1, 2014, more than 100 USA Swimming coaches have been banned for life, making this one of the worst sexual abuse scandals in the US Olympics sports world. Many more coaches, like Havercroft, have not been banned. Why? Because there is no statute requiring a sport’s governing body to address sex abuse. There is no civil right or legal protection from sex discrimination in the Olympic movement, or most non-school-sponsored sports, which includes 3.2 million children and athletes. While the Sports Act does contain a prohibition against sex discrimination, it is unenforceable, unlike Title IX. As of May 1, 2014, more than 100 USA Swimming coaches have been banned for life, making this one of the worst sexual abuse scandals in the US Olympics sports world. Why? Because there is no statute requiring a sport’s governing body to prevent sex abuse. There is no civil right or legal protection from sex discrimination in the Olympic movement, or most non-school-sponsored sports, which includes 3.2 million children and athletes. While the Sports Act does contain a prohibition against sex discrimination, it is unenforceable, unlike Title IX.
Over the years, USAS has insulated itself to a small group of “swimming insiders” of just 200-300 hand-picked people, rather than the 400,000 members of USAS. They make sure that the sponsor’s money flows to Wielgus, who earns over $900,000 a year, and his well-paid cronies. But more importantly, this small group has allowed a culture to continue that allows sexual abusers to prey upon the athletes they coach.
Chuck Wielgus recently issued a public apology, but failed to acknowledge any wrong-doing that harmed victims; instead apologizing that he didn’t know better, didn’t know more, and didn’t appreciate the seriousness of sexual abuse.
We, the victims, love this great sport and are deeply concerned about the failed policies and actions of the leadership and organization. We want our sport ridded of child molester coaches and corrupt leaders running this organization. We think the best way to accomplish this is through Congressional action that will hold the leaders of this organization accountable for their misconduct and to make the necessary changes to the Sports Act to keep all club-sport athletes safe from sexual abuse.
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Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Congressional Olympic and Paralympics Caucus
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Colorado-07
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri
Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada
Rep. Jim Langevin, Rhode Island-02
Rep. Dave Reichert, Washington-08
Sen. Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Sen. Barbara Boxer, California
Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota
Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri
Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas
Sen. Dan Coats, Indiana
Rep. Jon Runyan, New Jersey-03
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut