Complete links to Concussion Inc.’s coverage of the petition drive that forced the withdrawal of the Chuck Wielgus induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame are at “Chuck Wielgus Belongs in the Hall of Justice, Not the Hall of Fame,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=9233.
This week’s cover story in South Florida’s New Times, “An Underage Sex Scandal Leads to South Florida’s Swimming Hall of Fame,” is at http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2014-06-05/news/sex-scandal-swimming-hall-of-fame-fort-lauderdale/.
by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
The aftermath of the successful campaign to get the International Swimming Hall of Fame to reverse its planned induction this month of USA Swimming chief executive Chuck Wielgus was well summarized by George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel.
“Why does this man still have a job?” Diaz wrote.
Sacking Wielgus from his $908,432-a-year position, in which he has presided over a generation of coach sexual abuse, cover-ups, false public statements, and perjury to courts is the next step, and the one on which there is the greatest consensus.
At Concussion Inc., where we have been covering this story for more than two years, we have long expressed necessary steps beyond the mere ouster of the CEO, and we reiterate them now:
· housecleaning of executive staff and board leadership at the national sport governing body
· criminal prosecution of Wielgus and others. The others include Dale Neuburger, a board member and a former board president, who is a co-perpetrator of cover-ups and perjury, and also helped design and build USA Swimming’s offshore liability insurance scam. (For readers new to these pages, and to review for old readers, we will soon restate all the bullets of the case against Neuburger.)
· aggressive intervention by the United States Congress. This would include public hearings, where the hundreds of abuse survivors from swimming and other Olympic sports can have a safe forum, free of revictimization, and where federal legislators can set in motion accountability and oversight, via radical restructuring of sports bodies under an overhaul of the Amateur Sports Act.
The Women’s Sports Foundation’s Nancy Hogshead-Makar coordinated a skillful campaign in putting together the petition that forced Wielgus out of the Hall of Fame. What is also clear is that in their victory lap, they have fallen short of catalyzing broad public-interest outcomes – starting with the Wielgus-must-go movement.
USA Swimming’s announcement of Wielgus’s withdrawal from the Hall of Fame included a line that made it less than the unconditional surrender it should have been:
“[W]e are committed to working constructively together with other organizations, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, to end sexual abuse and ensure a safe culture for athletes.”
We disagree with the essence of the January report by Victor Vieth of the Gundersen Health System Child Protection Training Center. This was a document commissioned by USA Swimming, at a likely cost of more than $100,000, as the lion’s share of a special $200,000 public relations and lobbying allocation to stave off Congressional investigations. (The report had a cryptic footnote to the effect that the center was cut a check of “around $25,000” for part of its work. Vieth has not responded to our multiple requests for a clear accounting.)
The Vieth report has one unassailably valuable recommendation: the call for creation of a special fund to compensate abuse victims. But on the whole, Vieth showed no stomach for going to the true and dark places of this narrative.
And we do not believe the report’s around-the-edges policy recommendations are a recipe for resolution of USA Swimming’s crisis. Again, that is a job for the federal government and Congress.
On the immediate step of forcing Wielgus out of his Colorado Springs dacha and into retirement from supervising the safety of youth athletes – a task he has abdicated and impeded for 17 years – we note that even many of the victims the Women’s Sports Foundation organized for the Hall of Fame campaign have a stronger takeaway than WSF itself.
For example, Walt Lopus, the father of one of Greg Winslow’s victims, Whitney Lopus in Arizona, told Phoenix 12News that Wielgus “needs to be taken out, and hopefully this is one step in eliminating him.” This excellent report can be viewed at http://www.azcentral.com/videos/news/arizona/2014/06/03/9935133/.