Complete headline links to our Shoulberg series are at https://concussioninc.net/?p=10736.
by Irvin Muchnick
The public has no idea how many national and global swimming sexual abuse dots get connected by the new lawsuit against the the iconic Dick Shoulberg’s out-of-control program at the Philadelphia area’s Germantown Academy.
Abuse by proxy? Check. Both coach and athlete pipelines to other major programs where abuse has run rampant? Check, check. (Follow Concussion Inc. for more information on the athlete side — the root of the Germantown lawsuit — later this week.)
But to start with the basics, we’ve pulled up Shoullberg’s 2012 deposition in the case of swimmer Jancy Thompson, one of the seminal wide-ranging complaints against USA Swimming. You can read it for yourself at http://muchnick.net/shoulbergdepo.pdf.
Understand that Shoulberg was deposed for a reason: that he was regarded as one of the most righteous coaches in the business, and someone who had a great record both for not tolerating abuse and for advocating the issue in the highest councils of the sport.
Shoulberg also was the club coach and mentor of Olympic gold medalist David Berkoff, who would become the most outspoken figure in the USA Swimming leadership with regard to the abuse problem, during two different stints on the board — first in the early 1990s as an athlete representative, then again as an elected vice president starting in 2010.
Berkoff’s swerves in his public statements, depending on whether he was an insider or an outsider at any given moment, are one of the most intriguing subplots of swimming’s long-running abuse scandals. Shoulberg’s 2012 deposition offers some clues, but not the kind most people realize or want to process. What it shows is not that he was a great guy on the abuse issue, nor even that he was a good guy but somewhat passive and guarded in a legal setting.
What it shows is that Shoulberg is simply a liar, out of the same mold as Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming’s disgraced chief executive, and Dale Neuburger, the board member and international “lord of the rings” profiteer and favor-dispenser. (Berkoff did not respond to our emails requesting comment for this story.)
Shoulberg was asked if he had discussed with David Berkoff “sexual abuse in the United States Swimming.”
A. I cannot recall it.
Shoulberg co-chaired USA Swimming’s sexual misconduct task force in 2003. He was asked if he knew of any previous such task force.
Shoulberg was asked if he knew about Berkoff’s subcommittee on abuse in the early 1990s.
A. I have no knowledge of it.
Shoulberg was asked about the “zero tolerance” policy coming out of his 2003 task force. What did zero tolerance mean?
A. Exactly what it means…. In my opinion, zero means zero. Nothing else. Zero tolerance. You can’t allow any misgivings.
Shoulberg was asked to explain his often-quoted remark, in a task force memo, that he “would hate to see our organization ever in the predicament of the current Roman Catholic Church — protecting child molesters!”
A. No organization should have a rap like the Roman Catholic Church that I read in The Philadelphia Inquirer on a regular basis for many, many years. No organization working with youth should ever have that stigma addressed to them.
Shoulberg was asked if he recalled any opposition to the zero-tolerance concept from anyone on the task force, including American Swimming Coaches Association executive director John Leonard.
Then there was this exchange:
Q. Do you feel that USA Swimming is doing enough to prevent childhood sexual abuse?
Q. Did you feel that way in 2003 when this committee ended?
A. I can’t recall.
Shoulberg was asked about the 1995 arrest for sexual abuse of his Germantown assistant coach Joe Weber.
A. I got a phone call Sunday night from Joe Weber and said he was in a mental institution, tried to commit suicide because he had inappropriate relationships with a 14 year old girl which I knew nothing about. It became a police matter. Police came to Germantown Academy, the District Attorney came to Germantown Academy. We met in Head Master’s office. To my knowledge, Joe Weber went to prison. When he told me on Sunday night he was in a mental institution, I knew he was no longer going to be employed at Germantown Academy. End of story.
Q. Do you know if he is coaching swimming at a YMCA, in Somerset, New Jersey today?
A. No. I don’t know that.
Q. Do you know if he is on the banned coaches list from United States Swimming?
A. I have never looked at the banned swimming list in United States Swimming.
Q. Do you know where to find the banned coaches list if you wanted to look for it?
A. No. I never, I guess you go to the United States web page and there must be some — I’m not a computer geek.