In a Tired Celebrity Media Ritual, Michael Phelps ‘Opens Up’ About Everything — Well, Everything Except the Sex Abuse Right Under His Nose in the Swimming World

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by Irvin Muchnick


As noted yesterday, Michael Phelps told all in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Phelps talked about being the face of a corporate water conservation campaign. (And we can be pretty sure a publicist for Colgate was behind this hyped interview “get.”)

He talked about how becoming a father “fueled his activism.”

He talked about his battle with depression.

He talked about what the interviewer, Marlow Stern — perhaps auditioning for Fox News — called Phelps’s “youthful indiscretions.”

But one thing Michael Phelps didn’t talk about was widespread sex abuse at USA Swimming. “If [sexual harassment or assault] goes on in the swimming world,” he said, “I don’t know about it.”

Concussion Inc. again is setting the record straight on that score. This is not because anything more courageous was to be expected from Phelps, a great athlete and a run-of-the-mill human being, in a fawning celebrity interview. It is because discussing abuse is now in the air. Whenever swimming’s reckoning comes — in two years or five or 20 or 50 — no one should be wasting time, printer’s ink, or bandwidth agonizing over why it took so long. There is no mystery here. It will have taken so long because the people in position to do some good in this area chose not to step up. The people in position to do some good in this area chose not to step up because they chose not to step up.


Phelps swam out of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

In the fall of 2012, my former colleague Tim Joyce reported on multiple platforms, including Baltimore radio station WBAL, that the club’s founder and head coach, Murray Stephens — a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame — had been secretly relieved of his on-deck duties following allegations of sexual abuse of swimmers.;

The Joyce breakthrough followed by three months my long story — filed from the Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha for Yahoo Sports but never published by them — on the larger abuse issue in the sport.

USA Swimming said that in 2010 or 2011 it had sent to the Baltimore County police information about one incident allegedly involving Stephens. The Baltimore Sun said the police claimed there was no record of such a contact.

On October 22, 2012, we reported that the Baltimore County police confirmed having received a letter from USA Swimming.

The Baltimore County police told me that there were no records to release in association with a woman’s allegations against Stephens “because no police reports were generated.”

There was no response to queries about this directed to Phelps through his foundation for kids.

During the same period, Tim Joyce reached Phelps’s mother on the phone. She hung up.

In 2013 we reported that Stephens — who continued to receive an estimated $57,000 a month in rental fees from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club for use of his Meadowbook Aquatic Center — was now, despite being banned from the deck at his own facility, supervising workouts at the pool of the McDonogh prep school in suburban Owings Mills, where his son swam.

Earlier this year we reported that Stephens had returned to active management at Meadowbrook.

Along the way we also reported on the upshot of now-retired Congressman George Miller’s investigation of abuse in swimming. And on the failure of that investigation.;

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick