by Irvin Muchnick
Holding our noses all the way, Tim Joyce and I have spent a couple of weeks exploring two never-drained eddies of the USA Swimming sexual abuse cesspool: criminally negligent cases involving coaches named Alex Pussieldi and Dustin Perry. The former is a prominent global figure in the sport. The latter is a venue-hopping small-time operator who has left trailing questions of sexual misconduct and financial hanky-panky at almost every one of his half-dozen-plus stops in five regions of the United States, plus Mexico.
Many inferences can be drawn from these tales of a combined 20 to 26 years of cover-up (depending on how you keep score). But for purposes of federal investigators spurred by Congressman George Miller, ranking minority member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the pertinent number is “four.”
That is the number of years since Chuck Wielgus, the CEO of USA Swimming, showed his true colors in an interview on ABC’s 20/20. Wielgus denied, dissembled, and when asked if abuse victims had apologies coming, looked shifty, made a face, and defiantly said no.
In the fallout, we got the “Safe Sport” program, directed by former Indiana University swimmer Susan Woessner (whose sister Geri Woessner would soon join her on USA Swimming’s bloated Colorado Springs executive staff as a marketing manager).
It is the “progress” made by Safe Sport since 2010 that lapdog consultant Victor Vieth called something that “should be celebrated” in his recently hyped and exploited “independent assessment.”
The Alex Pussieldi and Dustin Perry narratives also have recent, post-2010 developments. These expose the “Safe Sport” program as a fraud.
It’s bad enough that swimming, in 2005, buried a Mexican swimmer’s complaint that Pussieldi slugged and choked him in Florida – after also secretly videotaping him in the bathroom where the coach had housed the swimmer when he first arrived here. In 2007, the Fort Lauderdale police and the state’s attorney would investigate multiply-witnessed allegations that Pussieldi kept videotapes of his sexual encounters with underage boys.
But the kicker is only seven months old and counting: Last summer Pussieldi announced his “retirement” from coaching and ostensibly moved back to Brazil for a media career. Just last month the American Swimming Coaches Association named Pussieldi a “coach of excellence” for the second straight year. And according to Florida sources, Pussieldi still has his home in Fort Lauderdale and is plotting a new configuration of his swimming operations after leaving the Davie Nadadores a step ahead of sanctions for illegally using Brazilian ringers in local competition.
Meanwhile, Perry continues to supervise the Carson City (Nevada) Tigersharks. He arrived as the head coach there without apparent local knowledge that USA Swimming has a decade-old file on him, which includes:
– a suspension for misconduct in Oklahoma; and
– a current investigation for eerily similar misconduct at his previous stop, in Idaho – where Perry worked side-by-side on the USA Swimming Local Swim Committee with national board president Bruce Stratton and his wife.
The ultimate challenge is protecting kid athletes – which is not the same as feathering the nests of the operatives of Child Protection Inc. Victor Vieth’s Gundersen Child Protection Training Center has accepted somewhere between “around $25,000” and infinity dollars for its whitewash white paper.
The tentacles of Child Protection Inc. are long and tangled. In 2011 the State of Colorado established the Office of Child Protection Ombudsman. One of the first things the founding director decided she had to do was to hire a for-profit contractor to design the agency’s website and “brand-building.” The consultant chosen was GroundFloor Media of Denver – the same company that, today, is coordinating USA Swimming’s six-figure emergency PR campaign to ward off the feds.
As is evident from a recent email we received from a Carson City parent, GroundFloor Media’s advice to local clubs, there and wherever new sexual abuse brushfires erupt, is this: “Pay no attention to Joyce and Muchnick!”