Yesterday Concussion Inc.’s Tim Joyce dipped a toe in the water of a story we’re going to be hearing a lot more about from Utah: allegations of sexual abuse, at both the university and youth club levels, by coaches other than Greg Winslow.
I don’t care how many plumbers the University of Utah, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, USA Swimming, and the American Swimming Coaches Association employ. I don’t care if they channel Harvey Keitel from Pulp Fiction. This tale is headed in only one direction. The environment of abuse in swimming is too suffocating, the relationships of the miscreants too interlocking, the movements of the priesthood too Catholic Churchish. That is so even if the worship of the minions, likewise, often seems impenetrable.
Tim and I have some solid info on some very bad stuff that has happened to girls and young women in swimming in Salt Lake City. Material of this sort lands in our inboxes in a continual stream.
As USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus so well put it in audio captured by ABC’s 20/20 three years ago, “One of my greatest fears is someone is going to start linking all of this together.”
We tread carefully in individual cases. Our desire to avoid false-positives and gratuitous reputational damage is a large part of the equation. Another is the importance of not re-victimizing victims. They have to be comfortable with their own levels of disclosure, with their own assessment of the resources of which they choose to avail themselves moving forward. That is why I emphasize that if a girl, or young woman or adult woman, doesn’t want to shoot off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and doesn’t want to call FBI Special Agent Randall Devine at 310-477-6565 (see https://concussioninc.net/?p=6808), she should contact Katherine Starr, president of Safe4Athletes (1-855-SAFE4AA [1-855-723-3422]; email@example.com). Katherine, the former Olympic swimmer Annabelle Cripps, truly has walked two moons in your moccasins.
With that background, let me share two more incompletely-sketched stories.
There is an elite swimmer from Salt Lake City, who is now back coaching in SLC. One summer, in the middle of a swimming career at a major college program, she trained at the University of Utah with the club program there. Returning to school in the fall, she told friends that she had had a sexual relationship with the coach in Utah.
Illegal? No — the swimmer was 21. Was she scarred for life by the experience? Probably not — anyway, only she could answer that question. It is entirely possible that she considered it a summer fling, nothing more; certainly nothing teeming with meaning for the safety of open amateur sports.
But were the coach’s actions in bedding an athlete in another intercollegiate program, and using Utah’s aquatic facilities as his personal sexual banquet hall, highly unprofessional, unethical, and illustrative of both his own abuse of power and the toxic culture of this sport? On those questions, my own answers are “unequivocally yes.”
Then there’s an e-mail exchange I had last week from an unusual source: the ex-wife of a USA Swimming coach recently banned for sexual misconduct violations.
In the final installment of the “Greg Winslow Files” series (https://concussioninc.net/?p=7045), we asserted that the former Utah swimmer who charges Winslow with molesting her while they were with the Sun Devil Aquatics club program at Arizona State University was not the only woman on the Utes squad who is a sex-abuse victim of a high-profile swimming figure.
Here’s is the excerpt that the woman has given me permission to share, for now:
“I feel horrible about the way my ex-husband apparently treated the young women and men on my team. Seeing the information coming out now and putting the pieces together, I do feel like I should have realized sooner….
“I believe the police have opened an investigation but I feel that if [the victim] does not speak out and bring some sort of legal action, the coach will be able to continue to work in the swimming industry, where I do not feel he belongs.
“Two of his mentors, both of whom have been to my house, spent time with my kids, and been hired as consultants in the past (I had no idea), were apparently involved in the prohibited behavior with young woman athletes.
“So you can imagine how troubled I was to find out about the Winslow connection with the current situation. I do not think this young woman ever had a chance, I believe this is all she has ever known.”