by Irvin Muchnick
Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming’s chief executive since 1997, likes to think of hmself as a classic organization man. But in the furious backwash of his ludicrous appointment to the International Swimming Hall of Fame class of 2014, the only thing classic about the Wielgus story is the pride that goes before the fall: an astonishing, overweening, out-of-touch quality.
The dissent of the brave victims of the sport’s sexual abuse, so skillfully put together by Nancy Hogshead-Makar of the Women’s Sports Foundation, has swelled into national media coverage. The brushfire is now a firestorm, and nothing can save Wielgus. If the Hall of Fame board, chaired by Donna de Varona, does its job, his induction next month is toast. And in grasping for a legacy of honor, when by any compass of morality and equity Wielgus should have been hiding his face in shame, he has also jeopardized his cushy $908,432 position in the hierarchy of United States Olympic Committee apparatchiks.
Chuck Wielgus definitely needs to go, and soon. But for the families of American youth sports — kid athletes and their parents — the answer is not so simple. For lying in wait behind Wielgus in Colorado Springs are more Wielguses: similar company men and women who have similarly “professionalized” (that is, monetized) swimming, speedskating, gymnastics, figure skating, and dozens of other activities that involve the participation of millions — all while flying completely under the radar, save for a few feel-good weeks every four years on NBC. These are programs dominated by cults of coaches who, in all too many cases, have no business holding such levels of personal power and career dominion over the lives of young people.
Ridding swimming and its sister sports of Wielgus-think is a job for the United States Congress, which enabled these creatures through the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 and now has to fix it. We know a lot more about the scourge of sex abuse than we did then. Thanks to Title IX, we also have a healthier level of female sports participation and a saner model for fair adjudication of disputes.
Yesterday, reaching out to the friendliest possible outlet, Swimming World magazine, the desperate Wielgus and his cronies, surrogates, and minions joined the Hogshead-Maker petition group with the whiniest, most treacly, and finally most mendacious counter-arguments for going ahead with his Hall of Fame induction next month. It is a thoroughly ridiculous case, made by a ridiculous band who have been feeding too long at the public trough — so long that when they look into the mirror, they see only glory, nothing of the sick culture and ruined lives their beloved system has wrought.
In the pages of Concussion Inc., Tim Joyce and I have been demolishing this weakly constructed and executed debate for more than two years. Later today, we will publish the latest pro-Wielgus brief, filled with its fantasies, revisionist history, victim revictimization, and legalistic, paper-pushing rationalizations. And we will point … re-point … to the reporting here that exposes the lies.
(So you say defrocked pervert USA Swimming executive Will Colebank — quietly dumped on a nearby public school district, where he proceeded to reproduce his pattern of soliciting sex with minors in his charge — was just a little misunderstanding? That Wielgus didn’t know that the USA Swimming-referenced aquatics director at the country club where the organization regularly held board meetings was the secretly dumped former national team director, Everett Uchiyama? That Wielgus and one of his pathetic past board president defenders, Dale Neuburger — he of the global swimming conflict-of-interest consultancies and an architect of USA Swimming’s offshore liability reinsurance scam — claimed under oath to courts that they had barely even heard of Mitch Ivey?)
For now, the last word goes to Matt McKay, a to-the-point, non-anonymous online commenter below the Wielgus apologia at Swimming World. McKay wrote:
“My wife was abused, testified and her coach is in prison for the rest of his life. Chuck denied those allegations during the process, and hid information. He does not deserve to be in the International swimming hall of fame. If he would like to discuss this I would gladly accept his call.”
Complete headline links to our coverage of the Women’s Sports Foundation petition to the International Swimming Hall of Fame are at the bottom of the post “Chuck Wielgus Belongs in the Hall of Justice, Not the Hall of Fame,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=9174.