CNN Brasil Stays on the Trail of Brazilian-American Swimming Coach Alex Pussieldi in a Big Report on USA Swimming Abuses and on Some of Pussieldi’s Associates

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by Irvin Muchnick

A week ago we pointed to a new series of investigative reports by CNN Brasil focusing on Alex Pussieldi.

This highly successful Brazilian swimming coach in Florida returned to his native country and became an Olympic Games commentator on the national sports television network at the same time Concussion Inc. began reporting, in 2014, on USA Swimming and City of Fort Lauderdale documents exposing the cover-up of an incident a decade earlier in which Pussieldi punched one of his swimmers on the pool deck of the International Swimming Hall of Fame complex in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Pussieldi was coaching there under the legendary Jack Nelson. The assault victim, a Mexican-American whom Pussieldi had warded and housed, blew the whistle on Pussieldi’s Peeping Tom secret videotaping and his collection of videotapes of his sex with underage boys.

After the recent online-text-only report, CNN Brasil and producer José Brito are back with a 20-minute televised report; the video is embedded at https://www.cnnbrasil.com.br/esporte/2020/10/17/exclusivo-atletas-denunciam-abusos-sexuais-de-tecnicos-da-natacao.

I do not yet have a full Portuguese-to-English translation. However, some of the interviewees (including myself) respond to questions in English, and a translation of the text at the link is available via Google Translate. Here are the key elements.

The report starts with a general overview of the USA Swimming coach abuse scandals, focusing on coach Andy King (now in California state prison); another coach, Norm Havercroft, and his abuse victim Jancy Thompson; and the work of California plaintiffs’ attorney Bob Allard.

I am interviewed and offer this quote about USA Swimming’s lack of diligence in the whole field of abuse complaints: “If it’s some small-time coach somewhere in the middle of the country no one has ever heard of, they’ll investigate that coach and throw him under the bus. But when it’s a more prominent person, it took many many years for them to investigate and get around to banning him…. It applies to some very well-known coaches who have never been disciplined….”

In the aired excerpt, I specifically name Jack Nelson. But in the recorded interview I also cited others, including:

  • Paul Bergen, the Hall of Fame coach who serially molested Olympic gold medalist Deena Deardurff Schmidt;
  • Mitch Ivey, whose list of victims is so cumbersome that it includes two unrelated women with the same last name;
  • Rick Curl, whose statutory rape of his swimmer Kelley Davies was an open secret in the swimming world for decades, before Curl finally went to Maryland state prison in 2013; and
  • Murray Stephens, founder of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (home of Michael Phelps), who was quietly removed from pool decks after allegations began surfacing against him in earnest.

My main purpose in naming the late Jack Nelson to CNN Brasil was to point out that he employed Pussieldi for a time. But there also remain open avenues of investigation about the pipeline of abused swimmers who flowed back and forth between Nelson’s Fort Lauderdale base and the programs and coaching trees of abusers who worked or had worked under Mark Schubert in Mission Viejo, California.

From my interview, CNN Brasil pivots to the longstanding charges against Nelson lodged by open water swimming celebrity Diana Nyad.

The report proceeds to expound on other aspects of Concussion Inc.’s Pussieldi-related reporting, via details about his associates Roberto Caragol and Leo Martins.

Pussieldi coached with Caragol at Fort Lauderdale’s Pine Crest School (where Nelson, half a century ago, is accused of abusing Nyad), and the two ran a summer camp together. Caragol went to federal prison for possession of child pornography. See our February 23, 2014, report at https://concussioninc.net/?p=8713.

Leo Martins, a fellow Brazilian, was banned by USA Swimming in 2016. CNN Brasil has the full background on Martins’ sexual misconduct, involving one of his assistant coaches, in a separate report at https://www.cnnbrasil.com.br/esporte/2020/10/17/brasileiro-treinado-por-jack-nelson-foi-banido-por-ma-conduta.

At the time of the announcement of the Martins ban, on February 10, 2016, I wrote the following at https://concussioninc.net/?p=10721:

“Leo Martins was well known in the local swimming community as Pussieldi’s ‘boy.’ (Pussieldi often referred to Martins as his son, and there is evidence that he became legal guardian of some of the swimmers he imported from around the world.) Martins was one of the swimmers living in the house with the Mexican who first blew the whistle on the coach’s Peeping Tom practices. And Martins is believed to be the person who, in the subsequent covered-up Fort Lauderdale police investigation, acknowledged that Pussieldi had inappropriately touched him.

Local sources say that, at the time, Martins leveraged the incident into a stream of expensive gifts from Pussieldi.

[Another] swimmer and a girlfriend of another of Pussieldi’s house tenants was notably disgusted at a poolside celebration of Martins’ departure to Arizona State University on a swimming scholarship.

Martins’ profile at LinkedIn, now deleted, showed that he got an ASU business degree specializing in travel management, and advertised himself as a consultant for international travel packages.

After graduation, Martins worked with Pussieldi in coaching the Kuwaiti national team. Florida public records also show that Martins was Pussieldi’s partner in a company called Best Swimming.

Pussieldi’s position in Kuwait had been brokered by former USA Swimming board president — and long-time board member, international sport official, and consultant — Dale Neuburger.”

The main CNN Brasil report concludes with references to the 2013-14 investigation of USA Swimming by now-retired Congressman George Miller of California, who was ranking minority (Democrat) member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

In Concussion Inc.’s coverage, I concluded that Miller’s work was a huge disappointment to those campaigning for reforms and accountability at USA Swimming. At the end of 2014, Miller released a very weak exchange of letters with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which included only a fraction of the information received by the congressman’s investigators. The FBI replied to Miller, in essence, that there was nothing to worry about because it had already looked into the allegations. And this became the essence of the pickup by the mainstream media: a whitewash.

After Miller left office, the Government Accountability Office published a report, spurred by him, that turned out to be nothing more than a technical rundown of federal laws and policies in monitoring abuses in youth sports. I denounced the whole process as a charade and as the output of a sham “independent review” of USA Swimming’s “safe sport” policies and practices and a six-figure public relations and lobbying campaign by the organization and its parent U.S. Olympic Committee. See “Congress to USA Swimming’s Abuse Survivors and Supporters: Go Take a Flying Leap Off the George Miller Bridge,” June 30, 2015, https://concussioninc.net/?p=10169.

For our comprehensive Pussieldi headline links, see https://concussioninc.net/?p=8652.

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