by Irvin Muchnick
A member of the American Swimming Coaches Association board of directors told Concussion Inc. that he will ask long-time executive director John Leonard to explain whether ASCA had any role in the U.S. job offer letter that George Gibney included with his successful 1992 application for a visa — a move made just months before Gibney, the former Irish Olympic coach, faced a 27-count indictment in his native country on allegations of child sexual abuse.
In an email to me yesterday, board member Jim Richardson said, “We are meeting in early April and I am sure that the board will be discussing this issue.”
Richardson, one of 15 members of the ASCA board, is from Club Wolverine, the age-group program affiliated with the University of Michigan. In 2012 he retired after 26 years as head coach of Michigan’s intercollegiate women’s team.
“I appreciate the work you have done in sport to uncover abusive and illegal actions of coaches and participants,” Richardson wrote during our email exchange.
Richardson’s assertion that the ASCA board would take up the George Gibney matter came just a day after the board president, Don Heidary, told us he’d never heard of Gibney. Neither Heidary nor executive director Leonard responded to a request for comment on Richardson’s remarks.
Leonard has not corresponded with me since I reported a 2012 email in which he stated that ASCA is not “an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape or form.”
As federal judge Charles R. Breyer pointed out in his favorable opinion in my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (which settled last year with the release of new material from Gibney’s American immigration files), this reporter “suspects that the American Swimming Coaches Association greased the wheels for Gibney’s relocation.”
The suspicion has both general and specific sources. Generally, ASCA heavily promotes to coaches legal services for troubleshooting visa issues.
Specifically, Gibney’s U.S. odyssey, as he fled dozens of accusations of sexual abuse both before and during his time as Ireland’s Olympic head swimming coach — including the allegation that he raped and impregnated a teen swimmer at a Tampa hotel room during a 1991 training trip — coincided chronologically with the expansion of ASCA programs in Ireland.
Peter Banks, a former coaching assistant under Gibney, moved to the U.S., became a citizen and a member of the Olympic coaching staff, worked on Leonard’s ASCA staff, returned to his native country as the head of Swim Ireland, and now is back again in Florida. Banks has not responded to Concussion Inc.’s inquiries concerning his and ASCA’s ties to Gibney.
Earlier this year another ASCA board member, Ira Klein, told Concussion Inc. “I do not know” Gibney and that the records of Florida Swimming, a regional affiliate of USA Swimming, “show that he has never been a member of Florida Swimming.”
Asked to elaborate on his confidence that ASCA’s April board meeting would address the Gibney controversy, Richardson said, “As a new board member I have no history as to how these kinds of things are handled by the board. We serve in an advisory capacity and as such, I’m unclear as to whether anyone on the board has any knowledge regarding Gibney to make a recommendation.” ASCA does not appear to publish agendas of board meetings.