“I understand your frustration and I can only offer frustration myself when I review the file and wonder why more was not done then. I can tell you that we are committed to trying to right that wrong now.”
Susan Woessner, USA Swimming Safe Sport director
February 19, 2014, email to Florida coach John Grzeszczak
Headline links to Concussion Inc.’s coverage of Alex Pussieldi are at https://concussioninc.net/?p=8652.
by Irvin Muchnick
With the topic of youth coach sexual abuse in fashion, the crack staff of ConcussionInc.net LLP has been busy re-rolling the proverbial videotape of the dozens of stories of USA Swimming coach abuse and cover-up that we began reporting in 2012 (for two key years, 2013-14, in collaboration with my writer friend Tim Joyce). Have archives, will leverage.
Take Alex Pussieldi — please.
Pussieldi is a great poster puker, since his abuses were so wide-ranging, both geographically and across the provisions of the sport’s code of conduct and even the Florida criminal code. These days he seems to be back in his native Brazil full time, playing the Portuguese-speaking counterpart to Rowdy Gaines for the country’s SporTV network.
But it’s important to note that nothing prevents Pussieldi from returning to a pool deck in the U.S. That is, presuming he has made good on the nearly $20,000 in fines imposed by Florida Gold Coast Swimming, USA Swimming’s regional affiliate, for registration violations among the small army of foreign swimmers, mostly from Caribbean and Persian Gulf countries, whom he imported to his age-group programs in South Florida. Some of them, Pussieldi personally boarded. Some of these, he peeped on at his house in Fort Lauderdale.
Introducing this retrospective, I could say, “Remember Alex Pussieldi?” Except, how can you be asked to remember what you never knew? Before the Orange County Register publishes another one of its “exclusives,” I’d better get on with it.
Over the last week John Grzeszczak has been calling me, hopping mad. Grzeszczak is a masters coach who — then working for the club operating out of the International Swimming Hall of Fame complex in Fort Lauderdale — was a confidante and sole defender of a Mexican swimmer who went to the cops after Pussieldi committed blatant assault and battery against him in 2004. The swimmer had refused to practice under Pussieldi’s supervision. And he had refused to practice under Pussieldi’s supervision, in part, because the swimmer had discovered that the coach had installed a hidden video camera in his bathroom. In Pussieldi’s bedroom, there was also a stash of videos of him having sex with apparent underage boys.
For all this, some folks got severely ostracized by the team … the swimmer and Grzeszczak, of course.
Pussieldi? He left Nelson’s club, lay low for a week or so while the Sun Sentinel newspaper suppressed coverage of the incident, and resumed his coaching career for other clubs in the area, including ultimately his own, Davie Nadadores. That ended badly when his registration infractions combined with a decision at Nova Southeastern University to stop housing Pussieldi’s swimmers in its dorms.
Along the way, with the help of Dale Neuburger, former USA Swimming president, long-time board member, and mover and shaker at FINA, the international sport governing body, Pussieldi’s resume would encompass the head coaching position for the Kuwaiti national team. His reputation in South Florida was sterling. In 2012 a Miami Herald sports columnist drooled: “Swimmers from 53 countries have found a second home at this global hotspot in west Broward as members of the Davie Nadadores club. Coach Alex Pussieldi not only trains them but he also accommodates their multicultural needs.”
Today John Grzeszczak doesn’t just want to know why USA Swimming “never” did anything about Alex Pussieldi. Grzeszczak also wants to know, specifically, why the group’s vaunted “Safe Sport” department, started in 2010, still did nothing about Pussieldi after Tim Joyce and I broke the silence surrounding him in a series of articles beginning in 2014.
This, I think, is the moral of the re-upping of our old coverage. Safe Sport director Woessner has just resigned — caught red-handed in a relationship with a coach, Sean Hutchison, whom she would proceed to participate in exonerating in one of the first investigations on her watch, and swimming’s purported newly turned leaf.
As Concussion Inc. documented yesterday, Safe Sport is a fraud of racketeering proportions. The Pussieldi case illustrates as much. The swimming national sport governing body whiffed on taking measures against him, in response to specific complaints, both pre- and post-Safe Sport. Their epic fails straddled the PR sticker slapped on them.
What happened is that in February 2014, a full decade after the pool deck assault incident, Joyce and I set out to decipher a sensational and redacted set of documents we had come across from the Mexican swimmer’s original USA Swimming complaint against Pussieldi. Tim was the one who figured out that “AP” was Alex Pussieldi, and we were off and running.
At which point Susan Woessner set in motion a fresh investigation. This was her own initiative, presumably — much the way USA Swimming has now “proactively” forwarded its 2010-11 investigation of Sean Hutchison to the new National Center for Safe Sport during the probe of allegations that Hutchison groomed and abused his swimmer Ariana Kukors across many years, starting when she was 13.
There’s so much more to say — reiterate — about Pussieldi, and we’re up to the task with primary source documents, old articles exposing cowardly and complicit journalists and the Fort Lauderdale Department of Parks and Rec, and unanswered questions of how, if this guy can’t get prosecuted for that, can we ever protect youth athletes from bad actors in the coaching ranks, in South Florida or anywhere?
For this introductory installment, we leave you with two pieces of homework:
* The alternative weekly New Times newspapers of Miami and Fort Lauderdale picked up Concussion Inc.’s work on Pussieldi in a good cover story by Deirdra Funcheon. The link is http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/an-underage-sex-scandal-leads-to-south-floridas-swimming-hall-of-fame-6395839. The New Times coverage resonated because the owner of the club at the International Swimming Hall of Fame complex, Jack Nelson, was the coach whom open water legend Diana Nyad accused of serially molesting her a half-century ago while coaching her at the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. (Nelson would die later in 2014.) In addition, Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming’s CEO from 1997 up to his death last year, was scheduled for Hall of Fame induction, but it got derailed that summer by a petition campaign organized by Nancy Hogshead-Makar and spearheaded by Nyad and others.
* Below, read John Grzeszczak’s February 2014 emails with Susan Woessner and a USA Swimming investigator. When you do, you’ll understand why he’s so angry, again, in February 2018.
From: Nancy Fisher
To: John Grzeszczak
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 12:36 PM
Subject: USA Swimming Inquiry
Dear Coach John Grzeszczak,
At the present time, USA Swimming is conducting an inquiry into allegations that Coach Alex Pussieldi videotaped swimmers in his residential bathroom and also climbed into bed with one of the swimmers. These allegations center upon events that took place in or about 2004. If you would consent, I would like to interview you, at your convenience, regarding your knowledge of these events.
The interview, of course, is voluntary and is not taped. The interview can be discontinued, at any time, at your request. Should you consent to this interview, would you please let me know at 210-386-6578 or by email. I will conduct the interview at the most convenient time for you.
Nancy B. Fisher
From: John Grzeszczak
To: Susan Woessner
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 3:51 PM
Subject: Fw: USA Swimming Inquiry
Susan, This is coach John Grzeszczak, I received this email this morning, I want to know if you know Ms. Fisher, Yes, i will help, I and several others, went to USA swimming years ago about Mr. Pussieldi, so i want to know if You folks are finally looking into his escapades, seems he left Davie Naddadores, in a hurry for Brazil, rumor has it he got caught again here, however before I and the swimmer involved, who was sleeping with COACH PUSSIELDI, and was assaulted by him for reporting it, and you guys swept it under the rug, I want to know is this just another reporter digging around or does this person have an affiliation with USA SWIMMING.
I do apologize for my tone, however, this incident was brought forth with proof, xrays, dr ‘s testifying, and you guys did nothing.
John S. Grzeszczak
From: Susan Woessner
To: John Grzeszczak
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 3:55 PM
Subject: Re: USA Swimming Inquiry
Yes, Nancy Fisher is with USA Swimming, not a reporter. I understand your frustration and I can only offer frustration myself when I review the file and wonder why more was not done then. I can tell you that we are committed to trying to right that wrong now.
I am sitting on a plane taking off shortly – can I call you this afternoon when I land?
Sent from my iPhone