by Irvin Muchnick
Obviously in response to our equivocal review in this space two days ago, the petition by USA Swimming sexual abuse victims to Congress got a fresh coat of paint today. The new and improved language is below.
As this article was being posted, the petition was getting close to 1,000 supporters and gaining momentum. But it is still falling far short of its grassroots potential, and without a more focused effort to build on the recent successful campaign to keep USA Swimming chief Chuck Wielgus out of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, it will not grab federal legislators and prosecutors by the lapels forcefully enough to bring about full accountability of the perjury and cover-up criminals in the sport, or overdue structural reform of money-first, safety-last youth Olympic sports bodies.
Concussion Inc. wants this campaign to succeed. I have no interest in joining activists who want to fight the good fight while making sure they play just well enough not to win. Wielgus’s stumbling and bumbling overreach in trying for a lifetime achievement award to obscure his shameful legacy – when he would have been wiser walking around his Colorado Springs dacha in a Groucho Marx disguise – is an historic opportunity to press on for unmistakable toxic clean-up of the generation-long national disgrace of youth coach sex abuse. This opportunity must not be squandered.
Two flaws continue to hold back Petition 2.1. The first is its anonymity. The Hall of Fame petition had named lead signatories and organizers. This one is just floating in space … cyberspace, actually.
The second flaw, closely related to the first, is that the Women’s Sports Foundation continues to be missing in action. A single unambiguous pronouncement by WSF’s senior director of advocacy, Nancy Hogshead-Makar – backed by no-punches-pulled promotion – could send this petition skyrocketing into the tens of thousands of supporters and get it heard all the way to Capitol Hill.
Until such a level of commitment is evident, the suspicion will persist that WSF remains much too tight with the U.S. Olympic Committee crowd and their narrative-distracting proposal for a new multimillion-dollar “independent” sex police – a poor substitute for accountability and federal oversight on behalf of kids in sports.
Asked by Orlando Sentinel columnist George Diaz about the USOC announcement, California swimming victim Jancy Thompson responded with a series of excrement profanities. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Colorado Springs, CO
On June 3rd, the Swimming Hall of Fame rescinded Chuck Wielgus’s membership, due to his failure to address sexual abuse of young female swimmers. The story was featured on the front page of USA Today sports here.
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.
Why is this important?
19 victims of coaching sexual abuse and 29 stalwarts of the swimming community led a successful protest against Chuck Wielgus’ induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, led by the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Chuck Wielgus has been the Executive Director of USA Swimming for the last 17 years, earning $908,432.00 in 2012, yet he did not adequately combat sexual abuse during his tenure. For example, in 2002, while Wielgus was still Executive Director, USA Swimming settled a claim for childhood sexual abuse with a 13 y/o sexual abuse victim of Havercroft for, reportedly, $400,000. Yet, 8 years later in 2010, Chuck Wielgus denied under penalty of perjury that USA Swimming had any knowledge of prior claims or allegations of sex abuse against Havercroft. Worse, USA Swimming and Wielgus allowed Havercroft to continue coaching and molesting Jancy Thompson, even though USA Swimming coaches and directors knew Havercroft was being investigated by the police for childhood sexual abuse as early as 1997.
Havercroft has never been banned or sanctioned by USA Swimming.
As of May 1, 2014, more than 100 USA Swimming coaches have been banned for life, making this one of the worst sexual abuse scandals in the US Olympics sports world. Many more coaches, like Havercroft, have not been banned. Why? Because there is no statute requiring a sport’s governing body to address sex abuse. There is no civil right or legal protection from sex discrimination in the Olympic movement, or most non-school-sponsored sports, which includes 3.2 million children and athletes. While the Sports Act does contain a prohibition against sex discrimination, it is unenforceable, unlike Title IX. As of May 1, 2014, more than 100 USA Swimming coaches have been banned for life, making this one of the worst sexual abuse scandals in the US Olympics sports world. Why? Because there is no statute requiring a sport’s governing body to prevent sex abuse. There is no civil right or legal protection from sex discrimination in the Olympic movement, or most non-school-sponsored sports, which includes 3.2 million children and athletes. While the Sports Act does contain a prohibition against sex discrimination, it is unenforceable, unlike Title IX.
Over the years, USAS has insulated itself to a small group of “swimming insiders” of just 200-300 hand-picked people, rather than the 400,000 members of USAS. They make sure that the sponsor’s money flows to Wielgus, who earns over $900,000 a year, and his well-paid cronies. But more importantly, this small group has allowed a culture to continue that allows sexual abusers to prey upon the athletes they coach.
Chuck Wielgus recently issued a public apology, but failed to acknowledge any wrong-doing that harmed victims; instead apologizing that he didn’t know better, didn’t know more, and didn’t appreciate the seriousness of sexual abuse.
We, the victims, love this great sport and are deeply concerned about the failed policies and actions of the leadership and organization. We want our sport ridded of child molester coaches and corrupt leaders running this organization. We think the best way to accomplish this is through Congressional action that will hold the leaders of this organization accountable for their misconduct and to make the necessary changes to the Sports Act to keep all club-sport athletes safe from sexual abuse.
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