Dale Neuburger – Official Whose Business Machinations Are Blamed for Open Water Swimmer Fran Crippen’s 2010 Death – Wins Lifetime Service Award

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Irvin Muchnick’s book UNDERWATER: The Greed-Soaked Tale of Sexual Abuse in USA Swimming and Around the Globe will be published next year by ECW Press.


by Irvin Muchnick


In a move indicative of the corruption and corporate incest within organized swimming, Dale Neuburger, a long-time board member of both USA Swimming and FINA, the sport’s Switzerland-based international governance body, has been named winner of the George M. Steinbrenner III Sport Leadership Award. The announcement was made earlier this week by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Endowment.

The honor is both richly ironic and strangely appropriate, since Neuburger, for decades, has put his business interests ahead of athlete safety. That the award is named for the twice suspended and once criminally convicted late owner of baseball’s New York Yankees makes it almost perfect.

While on the FINA board at the same time he was a principal of an Indianapolis company then called TSE Consulting, which lobbied on behalf of municipalities seeking major event hosting rights,Neuburger was regarded as instrumental in setting the 2010 FINA Open Water Championships off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The Persian Gulf waters were their normal dangerously hot 85 degrees Fahrenheit that day, and Fran Crippen, a 26-year-old American swimmer, perished during the competition. The background and details are in my 2021 article “Dead in the Water: The tragic human cost of swimming’s abuse scandals,” https://www.salon.com/2021/04/25/dead-in-the-water-the-tragic-human-cost-of-swimmings-abuse-scandals/.

Neuburger and FINA were so remorseful that they booked the following year’s championships for the even more dangerous 87-degree Yellow Sea waters off Shanghai. The reigning men’s and women’s champions refused to start the race, and more than half the field wound up not finishing or getting hospitalized.

Neuburger was a collegiate contemporary of the famous swimming coach Mitch Ivey, who was fired at the University of Florida in 1993 after ESPN’s Outside the Lines exposed his sexually abusive interactions with his female swimmers. These were just one subset of Ivey’s career-long misconduct, which led to his reported listing on USA Swimming’s secret “flagged” list of shadow-banned figures prior to his ultimate listing on the formal banned list in 2013.

In 2011 Neuburger – whose fellow Princeton alum and USA Swimming board figure Ross Wales had competed against Ivey in the water – was asked about Ivey in a deposition of a civil abuse lawsuit against the organization. Neuburger claimed he’d never seen ESPN’s report on Ivey and knew nothing about him. Only one example of Neuburger’s long list of lifetime service.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick