by Irvin Muchnick
USA Swimming’s Magnolia Aquatic Club in the Houston area is keeping the status of embattled James Scott MacFarland exactly the way the sport’s establishment likes it when it comes to coaches with controversial histories: in layers of confusion.
Earlier today, Chris DeSantis, the coach and critical podcaster and blogger, noticed that MacFarland had been scrubbed from the coaches page at the team website. Later today, DeSantis noticed that MacFarland was back up at Magnolia, but buried at the bottom of the list of coaches and with a much shorter bio.
Concussion Inc. has asked Magnolia head coach Terry G. Jones what’s up, and we’ll let you know when he responds.
Meanwhile, sources say that as of today the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which two weeks ago opened an investigation of Sarah Ehekircher’s allegations that MacFarland had groomed and abused her from the age of 17 — and that USA Swimming’s 2010 National Board of Review decision not to discipline MacFarland was flawed and biased — still had not received records it had requested from USA Swimming.
In a rare prompt response to one of my queries, USA Swimming spokesperson Isabelle McLemore refuted the suggestion that the organization was dragging its feet in complying with the U.S. Center’s document request, or showing contempt for its new authority to review old cases at national sport governing bodies. I noted to McLemore that USA Swimming had issued a statement that it was “proactively” forwarding to the center the 2010-11 file in the somewhat similar grooming-abuse case involving coach Sean Hutchison and swimmer Ariana Kukors, but had done nothing similar in the wake of the publicity surrounding MacFarland-Ehekircher.
“USA Swimming is providing the U.S. Center for Safe Sport with both the Hutchison-Kukors and MacFarland-Ehekircher files,” McLemore said by email, without challenging the reported fact that the swimming NGB had spoken publicly on the former case but not the latter. McLemore added: “As standard practice, USA Swimming will provide the U.S. Center for Safe Sport with relevant case information for any reports submitted to the Center.”