Both House of Represesntatives and Senate committees will be holding limited hearings this week in the sexual abuse scandals at U.S. Olympic Committee national sport governing bodies. Among those testifying will be Tim Hinchey, the CEO of USA Swimming.
Sarah Ehekircher, whose story of grooming and abuse by her youth coach in Colorado, Scott MacFarland, was broken and detailed at Concussion Inc. beginning on March 6, will be traveling to Washington to observe the hearings. She has already met with Hinchey and a second meeting is scheduled; additionally, the U.S. Center for SafeSport has opened a follow-up investigation of MacFarland to the one conducted by swimming in 2010.
As we’ve reported, Ehekircher also has spoken with the office of her congresswoman, Diana DeGette of Colorado’s First Congressional District, ranking member of the investigating subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and with committee staff investigators. This week’s hearings will take testimony from sports body executives — not from abuse victims. With this in mind, we asked Ehekircher to write about what she stands prepared to testify about in the future.
by Sarah Ehekircher
I would start by taking members of Congress back to 2010, when I was filled with hope that Scott MacFarland would get banned from coaching.
I spent five months feeding information to USA Swimming’s in-house counsel. I included names of people I swam with, timelines, and everything else they requested. I was happy to help. I thought they were on my side and were committed to doing the right thing.
But I couldn’t have been more naive.
In fact, I was being played. I wouldn’t realize this until I sat down to speak at swimming’s National Board of Review hearing on September 23, 2010.
I was forced to sit directly across from my rapist. His attorney read into the record letters from friends I had swum with; the attorney had contacted them and turned them against me. These accounts told stories of what a horrible person I was, and how everyone hated me. Even if these accounts were true, they weren’t relevant to the allegations against MacFarland.
I was contradicted by USA Swimming’s attorney, who was supposed to be on my side. It was surreal listening to this attorney use against me everything I had given USA Swimming. I could not figure out what was going on. Why didn’t USA Swimming try to prove that I did in fact, swim for Scott MacFarland, even after his claim of only having sex with me, after I turned 18, and he was no longer my coach. They had my membership records and access to swim meet results.
Instead, they produced nothing, changed the code of conduct violation allegation, the night before the hearing, from what they were originally going by, to the concept that there was no code of conduct violation from the time subsequent to my rape. There was no counter argument; they didn’t even call my nearly dozen witnesses, who had been alerted to stand by waiting on a phone, throughout the entire NBOR.
I had been betrayed, and basically raped again, by USA Swimming. The hearing was pre-determined, before it even began. Scott was going to be able to continue coaching, and I was a lying, out for money, attention starved-crazy person. I had basically been hit over the head with a baseball bat, I never saw it coming!
I had spent the years leading up to the hearing in hopes that there would be a time, in the future, that someone would hear the truth, about what really happened to me, and Scott would never coach again. When the USA Swimming SafeSport department was formed in 2010, that time seemed to be at hand, but that didn’t happen. Eight years later, the Safe Sport Act created the USOC’s U.S. Center for SafeSport: another reason to hope, another opportunity to make things right.
But from my perspective, the U.S. Center for SafeSport is another false hope, another missed opportunity.
I say this because, although the Center has opened a new investigation of Scott MacFarland, it is following procedures that are the opposite of the transparency now required. For one thing, the Center investigator has told me that the transcript of the 2010 NBOR cannot be released to me because it is barred by a “confidentiality agreement.” There is no such agreement — only an assertion of confidentiality by one of the parties. I never have and never would agree to such a thing. The attorney who has been advising me in this matter, Jonathan Little, makes it clear that it would have been unethical for him to have made an agreement that concealed information from his own client.
In addition, the SafeSport Center has whittled down the original allegations against MacFarland to one charging him only with having brought “disrepute to the Corporation” under Code of Conduct section 401.1. This trivializes sexual abuse, which is not a public relations problem for the sports bodies; it is a crime against youth athletes and a devastating social problem.
The Center investigator also argued to me that it cannot “go back in time.” I disagree. One of the very purposes of the Center is to revisit the past and attempt to right past wrongs.
The bottom line is that as of today, none of my concerns have been addressed, I have not been interviewed, and no documents of any kind have been produced that would prove my case. USA Swimming blames SafeSport. SafeSport blames USA Swimming.
So, I ask, what are they afraid of? When will USA Swimming finally do the right thing, and do everything they can to make things right with all the victims whose abuse the organization enabled?
In the course of telling my story, I have recounted events outside my direct experience with Scott MacFarland — events that shine light on the sport-wide culture of abuse, denial, and cover-up. For example, as an adult, while on the staff of the American Swimming Coach Association, by executive director John Leonard.
I also have become privy to information about MacFarland’s misconduct with other athletes he coached, and about his connections with other coaches, including some of the most prominent ones in swimming, who also engaged in these heinous practices. In the near future, I look forward to being able to testify fully to Congress and all other appropriate authorities.
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