by Irvin Muchnick
We’re going to hold off for at least a day on full commentary on the report, “When the Athlete Is a Child: An Assessment of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Program,” by Victor Vieth of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. The 125-page document is viewable at http://www.gundersenhealth.org/upload/docs/NCPTC/USA-Swimming-Report-1-27-14.pdf.
One the reasons Tim Joyce and I want to make only preliminary comments is that we don’t want to nitpick. Many of the Vieth recommendations — notably the establishment of a victims’ fund — are valuable in theory and would be more valuable in practice.
In addition to wanting to read this white paper thoroughly and criticize it fairly, Concussion Inc. is busy with investigative reporting — which USA Swimming’s commissioned study is definitely not.
The full document is somewhat stronger than the executive summary that USA Swimming touted yesterday in a conference call with a few select journalists. Why Vieth penned such a weak executive summary and allowed it to be so exploited — rather than insisting that he stand before the full media and speak clearly in his own voice about what he wrote and what he meant — is a question we can’t answer.
Vieth also should tell the public exactly what he and the Gundersen Center have billed USA Swimming for their command performance. According to page 6, “USA Swimming is obligated to pay Gundersen Health System approximately $25,000 for this work.” A footnote adds, unhelpfully: “The contract does allow for a higher fee as GNCPTC exceeded a set number of hours. Because these hours were exceeded, it’s possible the final payment will be slightly higher. Expenses were also covered….”
Vieth did not respond yesterday to an email requesting clarification.
We agree with this statement by B. Robert Allard, the leading attorney for swimming’s many historical and ongoing sexual abuse victims:
“Although this is a step in the right direction, true change cannot occur until USA Swimming’s corrupt leadership is removed. Under this leadership, a deeply embedded culture of perverted coach/athlete relationships has been allowed to fester. Simply “looking forward” is an incomplete remedy. The countless past victims of sexual abuse as committed by their trusted swim coaches demand justice and this can only occur, as with Penn State, when those offenders who continually ‘looked the other way’ so that they could focus on image, reputation and money are held fully accountable for their actions. This starts with job loss and continues, hopefully, with criminal investigations.”
More from here later on why we give the Vieth “assessment” a gentleman’s C and argue that it settles nothing. I have gone back to work on helping Tim tell the full Dustin Perry story — a central post-2010 USA Swimming scandal highlighting the gaps between the leadership says it is doing and what is actually happening in Colorado Springs.