by Irvin Muchnick
On Twitter over the weekend, I promised a new story about Brandon Drawz, former USA Swimming board member and big shot. Completion of this article took a little longer than expected after, first, a surrogate for Drawz, and then Drawz himself, reached out to me to respond to Concussion Inc.’s series about him in 2015 and to argue that I shouldn’t write this one.
Drawz said his failure to reply to my multiple contacts four years ago stemmed from bad advice that he now wants to correct by setting the record straight about what he believes has been an orchestrated multi-front smear campaign. See, at the bottom of this post, the full text of Drawz’s statement. At http://muchnick.net/drawzdocs.pdf, I uploaded the 11 pages of primary-source material that he both showed me and cleared for public viewing. I’ll be commenting below with highlights and my own take.
On June 7, I received separate tips — one from a coach, the other from a USA Swimming official — that the previous day Drawz had been seen at a business lunch, at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) commissary in Colorado Springs, which included Mike Unger, the chief operating officer of USA Swimming, and Paris Jacobs, the new COO of the American Swimming Coaches Association. (Jacobs took the reins last October, as ASCA’s 73-year-old executive director, John Leonard, winds down.)
My sources were incensed by this latest sighting of the organized swimming establishment’s rehabilitation of Drawz, after his retreat in the face of various allegations of malfeasance, and most especially revelation of the details of his 2007 arrest in an ugly incident in Indianapolis while he was chaperoning youth swimmers from Mt. Hood, Oregon, to a national meet.
In the view of one source, it was highly arrogant of USA Swimming to be hosting Drawz at the OTC earlier this month, since his arrest record “would have definitely hit the red flag” with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which carefully guards OTC access.
Another source mentioned that Drawz’s new roles in the swimming industry appear to include being a sales rep for the marketer of an innovative pool design — a job that probably places him on pool decks — and organizing a professional swimming league in development.
Characteristically, USA Swimming’s Unger did not reply to my email request for comment. Readers can think about what this latest manifestation of non-transparency on the part of the national sport governing body means as we ponder the next phase of the supposed new leaf the organization is turning after the 2017 death of Chuck Wielgus, the long-time CEO. Those following this site know that I believe Wielgus belonged in prison for covering up a generation of sexual abuse by many coaches and committing blatant perjury about at least one of the cases.
USA Swimming’s SafeSport program, enacted in 2010 after Wielgus’s two disastrous interviews on national television about the coach abuse legacy and continuing problem, has been exposed as a fraud: It consisted entirely of a new functionary with a fancy title whose job was simply to shuttle complaints to the CEO, who continued to make all the decisions on whether information rose to the level of a formal investigation and then on whether the output of that investigation would be forwarded to the National Board of Review. For good measure, the founding SafeSport functionary, Susan Woessner, didn’t disclose that she herself had slept with the very first high-profile coach under investigation, Sean Hutchison, who got “exonerated” (surprise!). Hutchison is now under investigation by multiple government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, and faces a lawsuit from the former Ariana Kukors, a swimmer he is credibly accused of having groomed and then abused for years.
More recently, we’ve confirmed that a purported legislative fix, the Safe Sport Act — so bland that it passed Congress with near-unanimity — has fared no better. USOC’s painfully not-independent “Center for SafeSport” is fielding thousands of complaints and taking disciplinary action in only the handful of cases not already butt-covered with corresponding criminal justice system action.
Next stop on the train to Whitewash Junction is a pivot to new-and-improved legislation that still falls far short of overhauling the Amateur Sports Act: provisions to increase the representation of Olympic athletes on oversight bodies — as if youth coach sexual abuse, of prospective non-Olympians and Olympians alike, were a labor-management problem instead of a public health issue.
As for ASCA, whether Drawz or any individual SwimWorld hustler finds his way back into the fold interests me far less than whether Paris Jacobs and other new leaders there will come clean on the full background of credible suspicions that their group — in U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer’s words in my Freedom of Information Act case against the federal government — had “greased the wheels” for the mid-1990s relocation to this country of George Gibney, the disgraced Irish Olympic coach. Gibney is merely the most notorious at-large sex criminal in the history of global sports.
In this foul transoceanic pond, Brandon Drawz is, at least, a medium-size fish. But he thinks the campaign against his reentry as a mover and shaker is based on lies and distortions.
In my reading, there are the three major areas of contention.
1. Drawz says the punch-out of his then 67-year-old coaching colleague, Bud Taylor, at a June 2007 meet in Oregon, never happened.
Here I think Drawz critics and swimming critics need to be open to the possibility that he is right.
Drawz correctly points out that this is a “he said, he said.” When I talked to Taylor in 2015, he confirmed the basics of the story I’d gotten from others that Drawz had pulled him off the pool deck, then sucker-punched him, but Taylor didn’t want to go into it. This could have been because, nearly a decade later, Taylor just wanted to move on from the unfortunate incident; or because, by some unwritten macho coach code, he was embarrassed that he hadn’t get the better of a physical fight, whether or not it was a fair one; or because a series of questions drilling deeper into the details would have rendered conclusions closer to Drawz’s version than to Taylor’s.
Then there’s the evidence, which Drawz now presents, that Oregon Swimming apparently investigated the incident — at the request not of Taylor or Drawz critic parents, but of Drawz himself, in a proactive attempt to clear the air. I must add that the inclination to grant Drawz the benefit of the doubt would be stronger with production of the actual Oregon Swimming report. (Dream on.) Still, it’s fair play to give him this one in the absence of further information.
2. Drawz says his August 2007 arrest for a domestic disturbance and public inebriation, while in charge of the Mt. Hood team entourage in Indianapolis, was a frame-up. He says the arrest was actually for “resisting arrest” and that the real story is brutality by the arresting officers who tried to cover up their overreaction with a phony narrative. He says the charges were dismissed after the alleged victim showed no desire to press them, and after the cops were deposed and their account was demolished.
I’m not buying this one. For starters, Drawz told me the allegedly exculpatory transcripts of the deposition of the Indianapolis police officers, though conclusive, were not at his fingertips. That makes no sense. I told Drawz that if he dredges up the transcripts, I’ll be glad to publish them.
The notion that Drawz’s enemies exploited the episode is certainly plausible. The idea that they created the very incident is not. I’m not sure that Drawz’s account, stating that “the impetus for coming after me was politically motivated,” actually intends to say he was framed; but he’s slippery on this point, at minimum. In our phone conversations, Drawz acknowledged that the Indy cops were not literally lurking to pounce on an out-of-towner, but rather were called to respond in a loud fight with his girlfriend preluding “the worst night of my life.”
Drawz emphasizes that the alleged domestic violence victim didn’t press charges — indeed, ultimately said she would only testify against the police for their brutal response. In addition, Drawz notes, the disposition of the arrest was not conviction, but “diversion” and “expungement.” These facts deserve to be recorded. They do not, however, address the issue of swimming’s administrative governance.
I never reported that Drawz was convicted, and equally important, I’ve always regarded criminal beyond-a-reasonable-doubt adjudication as a terrible standard for protection of youth from irresponsible authority figures in extracurricular activities. Indianapolis was not a non-event; it was something undeniably stupid, reckless, out-of-control, and it happened while he was a coach supervising kids on a remote trip. Drawz’s insistence that the police matter was not alcohol-caused or -enhanced is strictly a claim. Organizations such as USA Swimming must not enable, certainly in high-level positions involving ongoing possible contact with the minor population it predominantly serves, violators who have avoided criminal conviction and proceed to assert a “right” to subsequent positive vetting for discretionary employment.
Diversion and expungement (both covered here earlier) happen all the time in these extremely poor judgment scenarios. Diversions get handed out like candy in the criminal justice jurisdictions of Indiana and other states — they’re a way of freeing overburdened courts of non-slam-dunk cases. (Diversions are also deployed for traffic violations.) Expungement is a process, enacted in Indiana more recently than Drawz’s 2007 incident, whereby an accused can wipe clean an arrest record that didn’t result in a conviction. OK; his are duly noted. But we’re discussing all this in the context of systemic failure by USA Swimming to keep kids free of abuse and unsafety.
Finally, Drawz serves up a “To whom it may concern” letter from his lawyer. Significantly, this document is not contemporaneous with the 2007 arrest and justice system disposition. It is, rather, a captive conclusory statement generated at the time of the 2015 controversies surrounding him, on which I was reporting. The letter makes the expected explanations of a skillful advocate. It is not a substitute for the purported police deposition transcripts.
3. Drawz says his involvement with the scam National Swimming Center Corporation (NSCC) — for which the developers landed in prison for bank fraud — was a blip of no importance. More broadly, Drawz has alternative explanations of his departures from both Mt. Hood and North Carolina’s SwimMAC; he says neither involved alleged financial impropriety.
On NSCC — baloney. These kinds of schemes are nothing less than the DNA of swimming’s poolside potentates, who can’t accept that the fundamentals involve their ambition of catapulting a minor sport into the big time, with their own big-time profit, when this is unsustainable without massive municipal subsidies and the economies of scale provided by families who think they are involving their kids in an extracurricular activity focused on life skills and, well, stuff other than money. This is all part of why I say that, in America, there are no such things as revenue sports and non-revenue sports; there are only high revenue sports and wannabe high revenue sports. Drawz and NSCC (whose faces also included NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines, “swimming’s greatest ambassador,” who likewise has never responded, effectively or at all, to having been in bed with a couple of con men) are emblematic of how the business of youth sports is not youth, but business.
On Mt. Hood and SwimMAC, note that some of the documents slated for publication got pulled after Drawz decided that they should be only for my own “contextual” background.
Overall, I tried to convey to Drawz that I considered his presentation not only untimely, but also oddly bloodless. It makes him look more passionate about internal machinations than about youth sports values. “Look at the 1099’s [non-profit tax filings] — they don’t lie.” Who talks this way in the sincere hope that he will persuade a writer whose mission is to communicate how commercialism has polluted youth sports values? (And I do believe he is sincerely pained at having become a poster boy for this phenomenon at USA Swimming.) I told Drawz he would have better served himself by writing a guest article for Concussion Inc. and using a voice that sounded real, not bureaucratic.
BRANDON DRAWZ STATEMENT
As you know, I was elected to the Board of Directors (BofD) of USA Swimming in 2008. I was elected again in 2012 and served out my term until the day after the Olympic Games in 2016 — the full terms of each of my positions for a contiguous total of eight years on the BoD. During that time, I also served as the chair of several important task forces, chaired several committees and represented the USA National Team internationally on dozens of occasions around the globe.
I’d now like to turn to some timelines and other facts. Additionally, I have included documentation that corroborates the information that I will present to you. Please keep in mind that the timeline I am about to present begins in 2004. I was elected to the Board of Directors of USA Swimming in 2008-2016 as well as having been recruited for jobs and USA Swimming National Team Staff appointments during that time. The FACTS that I will present to you were never a secret and were public knowledge during the time they took place or any time after. That said, I cannot provide evidence for events that were completely fabricated. However, if you have specific questions about anything, I would be more than happy to answer your questions or point you to someone that can substantiate the evidence … or lack thereof.
The issues that I would like to address are:
TIMELINE AND EVIDENCE:
* Indianapolis — In 2007 I was arrested in Indianapolis for resisting arrest. The police report that was filed was false and once the arresting officer was deposed under oath, the charges were dropped due to the fact that police report had been greatly exaggerated as to what happened that night. I have never hidden from this, nor will I now.
– Expungement letter from the State of Indiana
– Letter from my lawyer explaining the circumstances of what happened
– A letter from the alleged “victim” stating the facts
* The alleged incident with Bud on the pool deck at Mt. Hood.
– Please see letter from the General Chair of Oregon Swimming
– Please see letter from Mt. Hood Aquatics
– Please see my official notice form that I initiated with HR when I decided to leave Mt. Hood.
* Separation from SwimMAC.
Additionally, by my own volition, I offered to resign and stay on as a consultant as the club had many great items in the works, but coach Marsh was afraid I would sabotage his chance at being the Head Olympic Coach in 2016 and let me go. He and his crew launched a full-scale attack against me in which they provided and circulated fabricated “evidence” to discredit me. Unfortunately for those attacking me, the financial and competitive success of the club while I was its Executive Director speaks for itself — to my knowledge, my tenure at the club was the only time SwimMAC EVER made money since coach Marsh’s arrival seven years prior. This can be verified by the club’s 990’s.
[redacted at the request of Drawz, who said he did not wish to expose third parties and wanted me to see this material only “for context”]
* USA Swimming
– No Board of Review was ever convened. In other words, it was determined that no rule(s) had been broken (regardless of what the blogger said) and this issue was dropped. I carried on with my duties with USA Swimming until the end of my term in 2016.
* Georgia Swimming