“Ireland’s Broadsheet: New ‘Shallow Hype’ on the George Gibney Story,” July 15, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14541
by Irvin Muchnick
Last week we looked at the latest iteration of the now two-year-old contorted defense, by Swimming World editor Craig Lord, of the person and entity most credibly suspected of having engineered the 1995 Colorado coaching job of disgraced Irish Olympic coach George Gibney. That would be John Leonard and the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA), of which the elderly Leonard is the former boss.
As Charles R. Breyer, a senior federal judge who is the brother of Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, put it in 2016, ASCA is accused of having “greased the wheels for Gibney’s relocation.” The suspicion flows most powerfully from a coaching job offer letter in Gibney’s immigration file, as revealed in my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit before Judge Breyer against the Department of Homeland Security.
Since the letter was released by the government in almost completely redacted form, we don’t yet know who sent it and why. What we do know, however, is that trouble-shooting coaches’ visas and placing them in jobs abroad has long been ASCA’s stock-in-trade.
We also know that Leonard brazenly proclaimed to me in 2012 that ASCA has “no investigatory powers, funds, or responsibility…. We do not have an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape, or form, according to our formative documents from 1958 and thereafter.”
Really? A trade group of swimming coaches has “no responsibility” for dealings “with children”? Not in “any way, shape, or form”?
Finally, we know that Gibney’s former assistant coach in Ireland, Peter Banks, has bounced back and forth from high positions in both Irish and American swimming, and was one of Leonard’s top aides at ASCA during the period of Gibney’s passage here on a mysterious diversity lottery visa.
None of the foregoing got addressed in 2018 by Craig Lord, a former British newspaper journalist, when he wrote, on his soon-to-be-shuttered website SwimVortex, that Leonard had shown him documents exonerating ASCA in the Gibney affair. Lord refused to publish the alleged documents in his possession, or to quote and contextualize them.
Gibney’s tenure with USA Swimming’s North Jeffco club in Arvada, Colorado, ended disastrously almost as soon as it began in 1995 — marking the apparent finale of a coaching career dotted by dozens of cases of sexual abuse on two continents. Might it be that it was only at that point that Leonard and ASCA decided they no longer wished to continue enabling Gibney?
In his new article last week, Lord, who joined Swimming World after closing SwimVortex, added a non sequitur doubling down on his weirdly self-conclusory Leonard apologia.
“In the course of our own research,” Lord wrote at the end of a piece almost entirely devoted to something else, “Swimming World has had sight of letters in which the American Swimming Coaches Association alerts potential employers to Gibney’s past, as well as other exchanges in which Gibney complains, through a lawyer, to ASCA that he is being prevented from gaining work by ASCA’s interventions.”
Once again, Lord is playing the card “I have in my hands documents …” — yet not disclosing the actual contents of this purported reverse smoking gun.
The reference to ASCA came at the end of last week’s Swimming World piece piling onto hype published a few days earlier, in the Irish Times, of an upcoming podcast documentary series on Gibney from BBC Sounds.
Just to be clear once again, I do not know if the podcast, Where Is George Gibney?, will have anything substantially new. But regardless of whether this Anglo-Irish production has anything substantially new, I recognize that the mere existence of contemporary Gibney coverage at major media platforms, even if incomplete and inadequate from my perspective, could help push over the top the current U.S. federal government investigation of Gibney’s Catch-22 resident alien status. (Gibney was denied naturalized citizenship in 2010 after failing to disclose on his application that he had been indicted in Ireland in 1993 on 27 counts of unlawful carnal knowledge of minors. But this material lie on his citizenship application was not enough to cause his removal from the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, because Gibney was never “convicted of a crime.”)
The current probe has been reported by Concussion Inc. as being under the purview of Jane Khodarkovsky, human trafficking finance specialist at the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS). The MLARS investigation, in turn, is related to the work of a grand jury, under the direction of the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, which is determining whether there are grounds for criminal charges against USA Swimming and its leadership for decades of insurance fraud, asset hiding, and abuse cover-ups.
The grand jury was reported last fall by the Wall Street Journal and other American newspapers. But they have not joined this reporter in noting a connection to Gibney. To the American audience, he remains “George who?”
Dr. Gary O’Toole, the leading Irish swimmer of the period who took it upon himself to blow the whistle on Gibney starting in 1991, is the focus of the new Irish Times and Swimming World articles. I was honored to spend time with O’Toole during my visit to Dublin last summer. I take no exception, on its own terms, to the victory lap given O’Toole by Times sports columnist Johnny Watterson. I also salute Watterson, along with another Irish journalist, Justine McCarthy (now with London’s Sunday Times), for providing the seminal public oxygen for the scandals of Gibney and the country’s other national swim program bad actors (several of whom landed in prison — though Gibney himself did not).
All I’m pointing out is that a rehash of O’Toole’s brave efforts to take down Gibney a quarter of a century ago is not the story in 2020. Not while the evil coach remains on the loose, and as American authorities close in on decisions about what to do next in response to a two-continent campaign to bring him to justice.
One output for the feds could be prosecution of Gibney for his one known instance of youth sex crime in America: his 1991 rape and impregnation of a 17-year-old swimmer from his Irish team of the time, the Trojans, out of Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock, County Dublin, during a training trip in Tampa, Florida. Another output could be Gibney’s extradition back to Ireland to revisit or expand on his original 27-count indictment; that indictment got dropped in 1994, thanks to a controversial and nepotistic procedural ruling by the Irish Supreme Court.
Extradition would involve coordination with Ireland’s director of public prosecutions (DPP). In 2015 the DPP began its latest of several reviews of Gibney matters over the years. This one was at the behest of now-retired Irish legislator Maureen O’Sullivan. In 2017, on the heels of my appellate settlement with the government of the FOIA case in the U.S., Ireland’s then deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Simon Coveney, told O’Sullivan on the floor of the Dáil Éireann that the government would move responsibly on new information.
When it comes to the Irish news media today, they are just worn out and weak — and hence behind the curve on Gibney. Swimming World and Craig Lord, by contrast, are corrupt.
Earlier in July, Swimming World had published another article under the headline “Mark Schubert and John Leonard Issue Denials Over Robert Allard Abuse-Related Accusations.” See https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/mark-schubert-and-john-leonard-issue-denials-over-allard-abuse-related-accusations/. Oddly, the piece had no byline. But Lord’s linguistic fingerprints are evident in British-English usage: for example, the sentence stating that Schubert “is minded” to file a defamation lawsuit against Allard.
Bob Allard is the leading American lawyer representing plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging abuse by USA Swimming coaches, as well as negligence or cover-up by the organization itself. In March, Allard and his client Ariana Kukors settled out of court her sensational and 100 percent truthful claim that she had been groomed and abused for years, starting when she was underage, by her youth coach, Sean Hutchison.
Allard’s California law firm, Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, recently published “An Open Letter to USA Swimming and its CEO Tim Hinchey.” See https://childmolestationattorneys.com/open-letter-tim-hinchey/. Allard demanded therein that Hinchey “fix the root cause of the sexual abuse epidemic which continues to afflict the sport of swimming. Having been deeply involved in the handling of sex abuse claims against USA Swimming for more than a decade, it is clear to us that there remains a deeply embedded culture within your organization which condones the criminal sexual behavior of coaches towards its underage athletes.”
As it happens, Allard’s laundry list of allegations against Leonard involves things other than ASCA’s suspected support of Gibney. But the Irish coach does get name-checked in reference to Schubert, the national coach from 2006 until his firing in 2010. “When Schubert was in a position to effect positive change within USA Swimming,” the open letter states, “he remained silent and took no action against the following coaches known by him to be predators: George Gibney, Scott MacFarland, Daniel Adam Dusenbury, Will Colebank, Murray Stephens, Richard Quick, Paul Bergen, Andy King and Mitch Ivey.”
In the Swimming World story, Schubert “denied even knowing Irish coach George Gibney, accused of abuse by various swimmers back home, and didn’t think he had even ever met him.”
But the pertinent question isn’t whether Schubert ever met Gibney. Schubert settled a wrongful termination suit by his former assistant, Dia Rianda. She was dismissed for demanding action against a coach Schubert was protecting, Bill Jewell, who later would be suspended by USA Swimming for predatory behavior.
Rianda has told me and many others that in hours of Schubert’s confiding in her, following his bitter resignation as national team director, he talked at length about the way the swimming establishment circled the wagons around Gibney. This was subsequent to a 2010 flare-up of Gibney publicity in Florida, but years before I began reporting on Gibney in 2015.
With John Leonard, the unsigned author of Swimming World‘s July 3 story exploited the familiar rhetorical card trick of the ASCA boss and his apologists when it comes to addressing known incidents involving famous coaches, and the failure to prosecute or administratively discipline them. That trick is to make the failure itself the circular and definitive answer to the allegations — when the point of those exposing abuse is that the allegations were truthful and should have resulted in prosecution or bans.
Leaning into the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” frustrates critics who seek to change abuse culture. And it is the wrong standard for certifying authority figures in youth-serving activities. Unless, that is, you buy into the mentality that swimming coaches have no responsibility for dealings with children, in any way, shape, or form.
Murray Stephens, founder of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club — later the home of Michael Phelps — was secretly pushed off pool decks following 2012 reports of his abuses. But in Leonard-speak, as ventriloquized by Lord, the takeaway is: “I am not aware of anything banning Murray anywhere. He is not on the banned list. I am not, nor have I ever been, aware of any accusations of Murray in this regard.”
THE GEORGE GIBNEY CHRONICLES: What the Hunt For the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Has Told Us About the Sports Establishments and Governments on Two Continents — order the ebook at Amazon Kindle, https://www.amazon.com/George-Gibney-Chronicles-Establishments-Governments-ebook/dp/B07NZ6S3PJ, or get an emailed PDF copy by remitting US $3.49 via PayPal to [email protected].