George Gibney and the Rape of ‘Stella’

‘UNDERWATER’ Heads to the Printer. Here Are the Full Front and Back Cover Images.
June 25, 2024
Ireland’s Village Magazine Censored My New Article ‘George Gibney and the Rape of “Stella”‘ … by the tweet
July 9, 2024
‘UNDERWATER’ Heads to the Printer. Here Are the Full Front and Back Cover Images.
June 25, 2024
Ireland’s Village Magazine Censored My New Article ‘George Gibney and the Rape of “Stella”‘ … by the tweet
July 9, 2024

A version of this article is in the current edition of Ireland’s Village magazine. The Village edit, which I did not see pre-publication, inaccurately states that Dr. Moira O’Brien, a former official of the Irish Amateur Swimming Association (now Swim Ireland), “did not respond to our request for comment.” In fact, O’Brien gave me an exclusive interview by email.

The version below restores the O’Brien passage and other cuts by Village. This is the “director’s cut.”

UNDERWATER: The Greed-Soaked Tale of Sexual Abuse in USA Swimming and Around the Globe will be published shortly after the Paris Olympics by ECW Press, distributed by Simon & Schuster. Details of our fall promotional tour in Ireland will be announced shortly. Links for pre-orders are here.


by Irvin Muchnick


Of the uncountable examples of the unimaginable wholesale molestations of young people by George Gibney – coach of the 1984 and 1988 Irish Olympic swimming teams, whom I call the most notorious at-large sex criminal in sports history – none resonates quite like his rape and impregnation of a teenage swimmer during a training trip in the United States city of Tampa, Florida, in 1991. Let’s call this victim “Stella.”

Stella’s case has been a large part of the historical news media coverage of periodic efforts to bring about a second criminal indictment of Gibney and his extradition from the U.S., where he has been a resident alien for nearly 30 years. The original Gibney prosecution got scuttled in 1994 by an Irish Supreme Court ruling, under a legal doctrine, which has withered in intervening years, that Gibney’s 27 counts of indecent carnal knowledge of minors, some of them stretching back as far as the 1960s, were too old for him to have a fair chance to mount a defense.

In his popular 2020 BBC podcast series Where Is George Gibney?, Mark Horgan of Second Captains interviewed a member of Stella’s family. Horgan didn’t get around to informing listeners that Stella already had testified to the Tampa incident, in her own voice, to Clare Murphy of RTÉ television’s Prime Time in 2006. One suspects such a disclosure might have made Horgan’s breathless audio package seem staler than he wished to portray.

This opacity is part of an overall Irish problem when it comes to institutional memory. When I began reporting on all things Gibney nearly a decade ago, I assumed that the Murphy Report – a 1998 government inquiry, helmed by Justice Roderick Murphy, on abuses in youth swimming programs – was a basic and easily accessible public text, analogous to America’s Warren Commission following the JFK assassination. Instead, I was able to track down the 160-page Murphy document only with great effort. When I asked Irish journalists and other friends about acquiring a copy, they responded cagily. A diligent clerk at the Oireachtas library finally provided a link to a painstaking download. (Where Is George Gibney? likewise had no time for the surrounding controversies of the dissatisfying Murphy report – most especially the conflict of its author, a member of the Glenalbyn Swimming Club of the Leinster Branch of the then Irish Amateur Swimming Association, all three layers of which were investigative foci.)

Getting my hands on the Gibney piece on national TV eight years later proved equally challenging. What I thought would be simple queries to RTÉ were unavailing. Late in 2017, however, someone presumably inside the network caused the anonymous post to me of an envelope, sans cover letter, containing a thumb drive with raw video of the Prime Time segment, minus the graphics elements added in post-production. I put up an edited version on YouTube. Stella, face obscured, speaks about the Tampa rape at, starting shortly after the 6-minute mark.

We’re now more than half a year past the latest of the periodic bursts of reports in Irish media that gardaí have again redoubled their Gibney investigation. This time they are said to be confident they have both the goods on some of his crimes and the means to extradite him, and have forwarded a recommendation to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

On the other hand, over on my side of the pond, in Altamonte Springs, Florida, when a reporter for the Times of London, Irish edition, knocked on Gibney’s door last November, his answering housemate opined, according to the headline, that Gibney “has nothing to worry over.”

Should the DPP ever break their familiar template and actually indict and extradite this time, the deep-past cases of Stella and of others, documented by past media reports and Justice Murphy, are unlikely to figure in. The basis would probably be fresh testimony from entirely new cases, by other Gibney survivors who were inspired to come forward by the BBC podcast (to give full credit where it is due).

But it’s worth lingering a moment on Stella, since her story is the most emblematic of the intertwined corruptions of the youth sports, criminal justice, and immigration systems in two countries, which have permitted monsters like Gibney to remain unpunished anywhere. The Tampa rape is the nexus of this big story, its transoceanic staple.

(Here’s where I pause to share that in 2020 Stella’s sister contacted me to express unhappiness over my persistence in keeping her case in the foreground of my coverage. While acknowledging that abundant and even first-person information was already in the public record, making the choice she prescribed an affirmative form of self-censorship, the sister said Stella was currently in a bad state and my resurfacing of her information was tactless. I responded to the sister that it brought me no glee to pursue this aspect of my job as I saw best; but with that said, my view is that the public interest in holding the system and its Gibney coddlers to account outweighs the purported wishes of anonymous survivors, via surrogates, to triple-clutch on either reinforcing or suppressing portions of already proffered accounts. Prior to publication of this new article, I gave the sister a heads-up, and my hope is that Stella, if necessary, gets responsibly shielded from possible collateral distress.)

There is an ultimate outrage from the 30 years of American hospitality for George Gibney – hospitality that has ranged from the probable arrangement of a job offer by the American Swimming Coaches Association, to extensions of his green card, originally stemming from a diversity lottery visa, despite proof that Gibney has lied about his Irish past in government applications. Not to mention that job itself in Colorado upon landing, a position requiring certification by USA Swimming. The ultimate outrage is this: Gibney’s climactic crime had already occurred several years earlier on American soil.

One of the advocacy avenues of former Teachta Dála Maureen O’Sullivan, when she was supporting the Gibney extradition campaign prior to her 2020 retirement, was exploring the obligations of police agencies to share their information across jurisdictions. Schedule 13 of the Mutual Assistance Act of 2008 outlines protocols for transnational law enforcement cooperation under the legal treaty between the European Union and the US:


“The director of Public Prosecutions, Commissioner of the Garda Síochána or Revenue Commissioners (in this section referred to as the ‘providing authority’) may, in accordance with the relevant international instrument and without receiving a request to that effect, communicate information to a competent authority in a designated state either relating to matters which might give rise to such a request or for the purpose of current criminal investigations or criminal proceedings or of initiating either of them.”


So, was the right hand, the Tampa police and the prosecuting attorney of Hillsborough County, Florida, ever notified that a scenario there might bear on an investigation started by the left hand, Garda Síochána? I can report only on the Florida side of the equation, since Garda will say nothing to an American journalist apart from ritual refusals to comment on open criminal matters.

In 2016-17, I was in contact with Rena J. Frazier, chief of policy and communications for Andrew H. Warren, the Hillsborough state attorney, as county prosecutors in Florida are called. (In a side note, Warren has since become famous for being among the local prosecutors at odds with the state’s anti-abortion governor, Ron DeSantis, over hellbent enforcement of laws arguably calling for the prosecution of providers and even recipients of abortions.)

Frazier said her office was unaware of the 1991 Tampa incident but would endeavor to get up to speed via study of the 2006 RTÉ broadcast, including the interview of Stella, and other media coverage.

Frazier told me something else of more than passing relevance: Decades of distance from the alleged crime didn’t necessarily preclude prosecution under what we in the U.S. call the statute of limitations. In general, “there are statutes of limitations that apply to the prosecution of sexual battery cases based on the level of offense, except for capital offenses which have no time bar. The time limitation would be based on the statute in effect at the time of the offense.” But, Frazier added, there were “also exceptions and circumstances that can extend the statute of limitations. The circumstances of a specific case would need to be analyzed to determine whether its prosecution would be time barred.”

As to Ireland, a source inside Garda declined to address whether there have been communications with Florida prosecutors, nor even to comment on the theoretical mechanics of how Irish and American law enforcement might compare notes under the legal treaty. This source did say that cooperation “only operates on the basis of a charge, it is not possible on the basis of inquiry. The passage of time may be a factor too or the death of a complainant or withdrawal of a complaint.”

So what constitutes a “charge” under this construction? It’s known that Stella had at one point provided a sworn affidavit to gardaí. Indeed, written affirmations were required from all accusers by the publisher of Johnny Watterson, the reporter who broke the Gibney scandals in the early 1990s. (Then a writer for the now defunct Irish Sunday Tribune, Watterson today is a sports columnist for the Irish Times.)

Over the years, the traumatized Stella has moved in and out of lucidity and hospitalizations. In a 2012 email interview, another root Gibney scandal reporter, Justine McCarthy (now also an Irish Times columnist, and author of the 2008 book Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals), told me: “The girl who was raped by [Gibney] in Florida in 1991 has repeatedly tried to kill herself, once while on the phone to me. The High Court civil case she took for damages against Swim Ireland and the Irish Olympic Council was struck out on the grounds that the proceedings were too old. The court awarded costs to the two organizations. The girl made an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with the insurers of her former solicitor (lawyer) who failed to progress the case. She appealed the size of the Olympic Council’s legal bill and it was cut this year by the High Court Taxing Master by two-thirds. The Minister for Sport, Leo Varadkar, had urgent meetings with the two sports organizations about their heartless pursuit of the girl for legal costs after the Olympic Council’s lawyer, Giles J. Kennedy, attacked me on national radio nine months ago for reporting the details of it.”

In 2015 in the Times of London, for which she was then writing, McCarthy detailed Stella having discovered, three months after the 1991 rape, that she was pregnant. Stella told “a high-ranking official” in swimming, “who is a professional person and knew Gibney.” Stella added, according to McCarthy, that “the official obtained air travel tickets and accompanied her to England. She believes she was taken to an abortion clinic in London and remembers the official giving her pills that made her groggy during the trip.”

In our 2012 interview, McCarthy had said that a key concern in the aftermath of the Murphy report was that “swim officials who played secondary roles in the cover-up have remained in positions of influence. I think this was made possible by the restrictive terms of reference for the Murphy inquiry, which means nobody was named in the report (not even Gibney, [Derry] O’Rourke, et al.). The effect was to add to the secrecy and to allow individuals – such as Dr. Moira O’Brien, the swimming association’s honorary doctor and a former president who was personally told about abuse and did nothing – to elude any accountability.”

Was Dr. O’Brien the “high-ranking official” who chaperoned Stella to her abortion and drugged her along the way?

In an email exchange earlier this year, O’Brien insisted that certain inferences pertaining to her role in Stella’s care following the Tampa rape were false. “I did not take [her] to England for an abortion, and I know nothing about it,” said O’Brien, an emerita on the medical faculty at Trinity College. She continued:

“The circumstances were that I received a call from her boyfriend who told me that she had attempted suicide and I told him to bring her into see me straight away. When they arrived, [she] was incoherent and appeared so drunk that she could barely stand up. I rang her mother and suggested that I bring her to the Mater Hospital and her mother agreed. I then drove her there as I had contacted a doctor, explained the situation and she had arranged for [the girl’s] immediate admission. It may be that [Stella] told a doctor in the hospital about Gibney and that that doctor told her mother, but she did not tell me.”

Accuracy of the account of Gibney survivors, O’Brien added, “is surely important for the victims, who have the sympathy of all of us for everything they have suffered, but it is obviously important for me too.” O’Brien said the involvement of “an extremely vulnerable person” has explained her own decision over the years not to defend herself publicly when “entirely false and vile defamatory comments were written about me.”

It should be noted that McCarthy is not the only source of negative comments about O’Brien. In its cryptic way, without names, the Murphy government report cited the original Gibney accuser, Chalkie White, being told by someone, almost certainly O’Brien, that White would best “get on with it,” as allegations would come down to his word against Gibney’s.

(My full exchange with O’Brien, redacting email addresses and Stella’s real name, is viewable at

With or without a legal treaty, the international coordination of police-agency information is professionally mandated. It is intuitive. It is not rocket science.

Nor are the ways to fight the scourge of youth coach sexual abuse. They are two in number. One way is to hound an individual villain until he gets the just desserts of wearing bus tire tread marks. The other way is to understand the accountability of all the enablers in his orbit, and to expose and change the organizational dynamics that make abuse something to huff about on cue but not to eradicate by the most aggressive means.

George John Gibney is a unique figure whose narrative connects the dots in a manner making both paths possible. But only if we have the will to connect them.


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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick