by Tim Joyce
An Alaska parent who experienced her own years-long struggle in getting USA Swimming to notice the incidents of abuse she witnessed by a USA Swimming coach decided to contact her Congressional delegation: Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and Congressman Don Young. (The latter happens to be the second most senior Republican in the House.)
This constituent asked her federal legislators about possible federal investigations into the Olympic governing body.
Here is the response she received from Young’s office:
“Thank you for contacting Congressman Young about the sexual abuse taking place within USA Swimming organization. We thank you for bringing this to our attention. Although this organization is not a federal agency and we normally could not get involved, we take reports of sexual abuse very seriously. We have contacted the Department of Justice regarding this situation and have asked them to investigate these claims. Because it is not involving a federal agency, the Department of Justice may not respond back to our office, but may respond to you directly. If we do happen to get a response back from them, I will be sure to forward it to you right away.I hope this helps push the investigation along. If there is anything else our office may be able to help you with in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.”
The Young staff was slightly mistaken in that, technically, while USA Swimming is not a federal agency, it is part of the United States Olympic Committee which was created by an Act of Congress in 1978. (It’s interesting to note that legendary Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens sponsored the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act in 1998, a revision of the original 1978 act.)
As more and more people come forward with these completely or half-buried anecdotes, the pressure builds on Congress to start giving to our disgraced national swimming program the kind of investigative attention now being focused on sexual assaults on females in the military.
In that connection, Senator Murkowski has announced her co-sponsorship of S. 1092, legislation aimed at increasing protections for victims of sex assaults in the armed forces — particularly from possible retaliation after reporting a violation. Let’s hope Murkowski and her 19 fellow women senators also get behind efforts to to protect the 300,000 young athletes competing in the abuse-plagued sport of swimming.