by Irvin Muchnick
My request for media credentials at this weekend’s Santa Clara (California) Grand Prix meet, which will feature Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and other stars, was denied by USA Swimming.
John Martin, the organization’s sports communications manager, refused to specify the reason for the denial.
In a follow-up to Martin, director of public relations and communications Scott Leightman, and executive director Chuck Wielgus, I suggested that I would buy my own ticket to the event. I asked if I would be threatened with ejection if I then approached a swimming official with questions about the nationally reported story of increased interest in federal prosecution and Congressional investigation of Wielgus and others instrumental in covering up a generation of sexual abuse by USA Swimming coaches. Martin, Leightman, and Wielgus have not replied.
In 2012, Leightman’s predecessor, Karen Linhart, threatened to have me thrown out of the CenturyLink Center in Omaha prior to a session of the Olympic Swimming Trials when I asked her a question about an “emergency” investigation that had been announced by USA Swimming in response to abuse allegations against an assistant under nationally known coach Rick Curl. Both the assistant coach, Noah Rucker, and Curl subsequently pleaded out to charges of statutory rape of underage swimmers, received sentences, and were permanently banned from the sport for life.
The latest USA Swimming attempt to impede Concussion Inc.’s access to public events follows last week’s report that a computer at the Colorado Springs headquarters was used to hack the online sites of critics.
The new petition by survivors of abuse in swimming is at http://www.change.org/petitions/senate-committee-on-commerce-science-and-transportation-ask-congress-to-protect-athletes-from-sexual-abuse-the-way-students-are-protected-2?recruiter=103722725&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition. A follow-up to a petition that successfully blocked Wielgus from induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, this one states:
“We’re now asking to amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. Sec. 220501 et seq., to protect girls and women from sexual abuse in club and Olympic sports, the same way that Title IX protects females against abuse in schools and that Title VII protects employees.
In addition, we’re asking that those responsible for perjury and cover up of multiple instances of sexual abuse to be held responsible. As the formal petition on behalf of 19 sexual abuse victims to the Swimming Hall of Fame made clear, USAS and Chuck Wielgus arguably committed perjury and covered up sexual abuse, violating 18 U.S.C. 1621-1622 and 18 U.S.C. Code 1001 and 1519 and other laws.”