by Irvin Muchnick
In 2018 I spoke with Dr. Gary O’Toole, the pivotal whistleblower in the fall of rapist Irish Olympic swimming coach George Gibney, about the long-speculated role of Peter Banks, Gibney’s former assistant. Banks went on to become an Olympic coach both in their native country and in the United States, and was an executive of John Leonard’s abuser-coddling and visa-troubleshooting American Swimming Coaches Association.
“I met Peter Banks on the poolside [in Dublin] a few years back and he seemed rather coy and standoffish,” O’Toole told me. “I don’t know whether he was ever a party to George Gibney’s exploits. But I always thought he knew something and said nothing. Which, considering he was a mature adult, is disgusting.”
In the newest episode of the BBC Sounds / Second Captains podcast series Where Is George Gibney?, we learn for the first time at least one thing Banks knew, plus the somewhat more than nothing he was finally coaxed into saying about it.
In a piece for this site yesterday, reprinted at Ireland’s Broadsheet today, I congratulated podcast producer Mark Horgan on this hugely important find.
With the “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’” verbal gymnastics that mark every level of the shame-soaked accounting for how the most notorious at-large sex criminal in the history of global sports has gotten away with it, Banks now more or less admits that he got his Blue Wave swimming club in Florida to offer Gibney a job there in 1993. This is what gave cover to Gibney’s diversity lottery visa, by which he plotted his long-term escape from criminal justice.
What remains is to plumb all the still-open questions left by the Banks revelation. As is my wont, I seek to take this beyond individual enablers of Gibney and into entities and institutions that are not explored, nor in many cases even mentioned, in the BBC podcast.
On the Irish end, these include the Garda (national police); the director of public prosecutions; the Supreme Court; the government’s 1998 Murphy inquiry into abuses in the national swimming program; and the Irish Amateur Swimming Association — or, as it would be rebranded after the Murphy report, Swim Ireland.
On the American end, these include federal government entities, running the gamut from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies with jurisdiction over visa matters, to a current grand jury investigation in the Southern District of New York and the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section; the police departments of Arvada and Wheat Ridge, Colorado; and USA Swimming and the American Swimming Coaches Association.
For this installment, let’s try to pick off the front and the back ends.
Banks’s job offer letter appears to be one of two third-party instruments Gibney used to support his diversity lottery visa. It was important to get the visa application on file and approved before his 1993 indictment, which he knew was coming down the pike.
The other document, also produced by the U.S. government in redacted form in my Freedom of Information Act case, gives a sense of just how long Gibney plotted his getaway. It is from 1992 — January 20 of that year, to be exact. It’s a confirmation for the consular authorities, issued by the Irish Garda precinct located in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, that Gibney had no criminal record at the time.
I have commented on the almost comical title of this document, “Certificate of Character,” and its incongruity in the 21st century. The title makes it sound like some kind of reference letter, along the lines of the one the sheriff handed Charlie Chaplin to help him find a job in Modern Times.
A facsimile of the redacted document, with the Garda date stamp, is at http://muchnick.net/gibneygardacertificate.pdf.
As for the other end, in America, let’s lay out again what both Chuck Wielgus, the CEO of USA Swimming who would die in 2017, and John Leonard, the now-retired executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association, said about Gibney in their separate depositions in lawsuits by victims of abuse here by other coaches.
First, Wielgus on May 12, 2010:
“Q Another name I want to throw out to you, George Gibney. Any — does that ring a bell at all?
A That does not ring a bell.
Q Do you know if he’s a USA Swimming swim coach?
A Actually —
A — sounds like a — sounds like an Irish — is he an Irish coach?
A Yeah, I think I’ve heard the name.
Q Was he ever a USA Swimming coach?
A Not — I don’t know the answer to that.
Q You don’t know if he’s a member now?
A I do not know he’s a member now, but he was a coach in Ireland.
Q Is he on either list, flagged or banned?
A I don’t know. I don’t know.”
In fact, Gibney was for a time a USA Swimming coach, and it was not at the Peter Banks Blue Wave club near Tampa, but at North Jeffco outside Denver. And though Wielgus claimed not to know if Gibney was on the “flagged” list — a compendium of not officially banned, but known to be bad, actors, secretly maintained by USA Swimming executives — Gibney would turn up two years later on a similar list, in a research paper distributed to the organization’s board by its then newly elected vice president, David Berkoff.
Now, the swimming coaches’ association’s Leonard, on February 14, 2012:
“Q Do you know of a coach named George Gibney? G-i-b-n-e-y.
A I do not. I know who he is. But if he walked in the door, I wouldn’t recognize him.
Q Were you ever involved in George Gibney receiving a visa to come here from Ireland after he was, after he fled the country amidst allegations of sex abuse?
Q Did you ever write a letter of support for George Gibney?
Q Did you or anybody from ASCA, to your knowledge, ever sponsor George Gibney?
A No. Just what does sponsor mean. Excuse me.
Q As I understand it, when someone wants to obtain a visa here for USA citizenships [sic], one must obtain a sponsor who is a USA citizen in good standing.
A I’m not aware of anyone doing that.
Q Do you know Peter Banks?
A I do.
Q And did he at one point in time work for you?
A He did.
Q Did he at one point in time, to your knowledge, work for George Gibney?
A I don’t know whether he did or not.
Q During what period of time did Peter Banks work for you?
A I want to say ’90 to ’94.
Q Did Mr. Banks, to your knowledge, ever write a letter of support for George Gibney?
A Not to my knowledge.
Q Have you ever discussed with Peter Banks — strike that. Have you ever communicated with Peter Banks anything about George Gibney?
A When the George Gibney information hit the newspapers, I called Peter and said, ‘Peter, did you ever write a letter of support on this guy,’ and Peter said, ‘No.’
Q And when did you have that conversation?
A I don’t recall.“
So according to Leonard’s testimony, Banks was working for ASCA at the time of the job offer letter at Blue Wave Swimming that was appended to Gibney’s visa application.
One more thing. ASCA has long advertised to its members legal services for assisting with visas and green cards. See our post about this in 2014, at https://concussioninc.net/?p=9005.
SUNDAY AT CONCUSSION INC.CNN Brasil has begun a series of reports that pick up on our 2014 articles exposing Alex Pussieldi, another abusive and globe-trotting swimming coach. Pussieldi, a Brazilian-American who coached in South Florida (including under the late Hall of Fame coach Jack Nelson, accused molester of open water swimming celebrity Diana Nyad), physically battered a Mexican swimmer whom he warded and boarded at his own house in Fort Lauderdale. The swimmer had discovered both a Peeping Tom hidden video camera in the bathroom of the house and Pussieldi’s stash of videos of sex with underage boys. The incident was covered up by the Fort Lauderdale police, the local parks and recreation department, and the Sun Sentinel newspaper, and Pussieldi’s celebrated career didn’t miss a beat. He became coach of the Kuwaiti national team, as well as owner of the Nadadores club in Florida, for which he housed swimmers from all over the Middle East and Latin America at, among other places, the dormitories of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.