by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
Slowly, and with no help from local or national swimming authorities who are charged with protecting youth athletes — but seem more interested in minimizing their own liability — we are piecing together the bizarre comings and goings of swim coach Dustin Perry, who belongs nowhere close to a pool deck from where kids are supervised.
As we’ve reported, USA Swimming suspended Perry for 18 months in 2002-03 on findings by its National Board of Review on his activities as coach of a club in Oklahoma. Perry served his “suspension” in Mexico, under Hall of Fame coach Jack Simon, and used that as a base for recruiting Mexican kids to his clubs in the U.S. when Perry resumed coaching here. USA Swimming’s Oklahoma investigation had already uncovered Perry’s practice of providing rooms in his own home for foreign nationals, at least some of whom were underage.
Today Perry is under investigation by USA Swimming yet again on parent allegations of sexual misconduct with his club in Pocatello, Idaho. While that foot-dragging investigation pends, Perry already has jumped to yet another new team in Carson City, Nevada, whose board appears uninterested in his shady history. And no one is talking about why USA Swimming did nothing in 2002, and appears to be doing nothing still, to alert member clubs of their documentation of Perry’s background whenever he applies for yet another new job in yet another new state.
Against all this background, we return to Centralia, Illinois, an hour east of St. Louis, where Perry coached in 2005-06 for the USA Swimming club out of the municipal aquatic center there. Rather reluctantly, the national YMCA office helped us figure out that the Centralia Barracudas were, at the time, a partnership between the Centralia Recreation Complex and the Y of Jefferson County, Illinois, located in Mt. Vernon. (Recall that the original USA Swimming investigation of Perry in Oklahoma had noted that he was terminated by a Y there in 1998, for undisclosed reasons.)
Yesterday, after we escalated our unanswered questions to her boss, City of Centralia recreation director Robert “Spanky” Smith, the Centralia recreation facilities director, Sonya Germann, emailed us, “The Centralia Recreation Complex hired Dustin Perry on June 5, 2005 and his employment ended on December 27, 2006. At the time of interviewing Mr. Perry a background check was conducted and references were called. The background check came back clear.”
The “clear” background check merely underscores that USA Swimming’s hyped criminal background checks do not cover the information in its own files. As with monster coach Andy King (now serving a life sentence in a California prison) and so many others, our Olympic Committee-sanctioned national sport governing body deliberately enables a hairsplitting lawyer’s game of “catch me if you can,” rather than a common-sense flow of vital job application information.
Centralia’s Smith and Germann continue to decline to tell us the circumstances of Perry’s 2005 hire and 2006 departure.
All this is yet another illustration of the shortcomings of Victor Vieth’s USA Swimming-commissioned “independent review” of the Safe Sport program — which itself had been instituted in 2010 at the gunpoint of network cameras and microphones.
That Vieth got co-opted by the organization, which is desperately fighting off government investigations, is obvious in the new “President’s Message” by Chuck Wielgus. Therein, the CEO brags that Vieth cited swimming’s “investigative process” as one of the “areas in which we have excelled.”
It’s useless to ask Vieth if he agrees with this exploitation of his words, for the vaunted “child protection expert” doesn’t respond to Concussion Inc.’s inquiries.
Vieth won’t even get back to us when we ask him to clarify what he got paid for his report (“around $25,000,” plus more, plus expenses, according to his vague report). Or why his report retailed a feelgood anecdote from a satisfied victim — a “not isolated example” that “should be celebrated” — while no-commenting a documented case of a victim of a violent rape who got blown off by USA Swimming recently right after Vieth himself interviewed the victim’s mother.