by Irvin Muchnick
In a significant breakthrough against worldwide ignorance of the cross-national aspects of coach abuse, the CBC in Canada has a big get: The Olympic speedskating head coach Michael Crowe was put on leave pending an investigation by Speed Skating Canada of allegations against him dating back to his days in the same position in the U.S.
Eva Rodansky, the American whistleblower who is the core voice of the CBC coverage, has been trying to talk about Crowe since 2006, to anyone who will listen. So far the only news outlet in this country who listened has been Concussion Inc. In 2013 I began covering the story of how Crowe had ruined Rodansky’s skating career, while boosting those of others with whom he was in romantic or sexual relationships.
I’ve covered Rodansky’s articulate and meticulous documentation of her story. I’ve covered the submission of her information to now-retired Congressman George Miller during a 2013-14 investigation of abuses in Olympic-affiliated youth sports programs. That investigation ended in shambling, devastating, dishonorable failure, when USA Swimming’s six-figure public relations campaign and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s lobbying clout prevailed over the mountain of material assembled by Congressional investigators, which would culminate in a vanilla report by the Government Accountability Office.
And I’ve covered how the movement of bad-actor coaches across national boundaries reached its apotheosis in George Gibney. He is the former Irish Olympic head swimming coach who, my recently settled Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security established, has enjoyed a perplexing U.S. government — and probably American Swimming Coaches Association-enabled — alien residency for more than a quarter of a century. All this even as advocates for his dozens of victims of rape and child molestation clamor for his extradition and trial. These advocates aren’t just credible; they are backed by findings of a blue-ribbon Irish commission whose 1998 report so far has amounted to all hat and no cattle.
As the Crowe story moves forward, I’ll be undertaking the now-familiar reverse engineering of the information from this corner. Let’s start with Eva Rodansky’s 2013 testimony to Sidley Austin, US Speedskating’s Chicago law firm.
Sidley Austin was investigating allegations — corroborated to a fare-thee-well — that legendary skater and coach Andy Gabel had sexually abused Bridie Farrell and other skaters under his charge. Though the campaign to get Gabel expelled from the sport’s Hall of Fame has not succeeded, US Speedskating did wind up revoking his lifetime membership.
The curiosity of a national sport governing body paying a law firm to investigate itself, and then proclaim the result to be “independent” findings, is one of the many recursive curiosities of the governance of youth sports safety. It’s why I say that the Amateur Sports Act needs to be rewritten to embody toothful oversight and accountability, rather than the undue diligence exhibited by willy-nilly 501(c)(3) “nonprofits” whose mission, upon being anointed by the USOC, is to generate gold medalists, corporate sponsorships, and network television deals.
In her victim-impact testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial of pervert USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Ally Raisman said in part, “It’s clear now that if we leave [solutions] up to these organizations, history is likely to repeat itself…. [T]his monster was also the architect of policies and procedures that are supposed to protect athletes from sexual abuse for both USA Gymnastics and the USOC.”
But for now let’s go back to what Rodansky said to Sidley Austin in 2013. At the time, she posted most of it on her Facebook page. She participated in two teleconferences and one Skype interview with law firm investigators.
In a May 28, 2013, memorandum to the lawyers, Rodansky wrote in part:
“Previously, I’d only suspected that Andy Gabel (when he was president [of US Speedskating]) failed to take action against long track performance director and former national sprint coach Mike Crowe for sleeping around with female speedskaters because of [Gabel’s] own history of inappropriate behavior. Last night, I received confirmation (from a source who fears retaliation and understandably wants to remain anonymous) that this is a fact.”
Rodansky went on to say that Sidley Austin needed to interview America’s most famous female Olympic speedskating champion, Bonnie Blair, a long-time US Speedskating board member, who Rodansky said could confirm her account that Gabel’s past indiscretions were what prevented him from taking action against Crowe. (According to Canadian sources, Blair has been approached about going on the record in the new Speed Skating Canada investigation.)
In her memo, Rodansky named three paramours of Crowe, one of whom clearly seemed to get favorable treatment under the fungible standards of how of Olympic team members got chosen. Here and for now. I’ll name only one of them, Chantal Cermak, because she went public last week in response to inquiries by the CBC. (Cernak is not the skater for whom there is evidence of favoritism.)
You can review the status of major media coverage, CBC broke the Speed Skating Canada investigation of Crowe here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/crowe-speed-skating-1.4495942.
In a follow-up over the weekend, CBC reported that Speed Skating Canada’s new CEO, Susan Auch, says the organization has hired an outside investigation to look into “serious” and “substantive” allegations against Crowe. See http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/speed-skating-canada-complaints-investigation-1.4497142.
US Speedskating and its Sidley Austin law firm did not respond to Concussion Inc.’s request for comment on this article. Sidley Austin has never released a public report, or even one to US Speedskating’s membership, on the results of the Andy Gabel investigation.