Questions Surround $23,000 Grant to American Swimming Coaches Association From USA Swimming’s Wielgus

Swimming World Magazine Checks Out (False) Rumor That FBI Raided USA Swimming Offices
October 14, 2014
Indiana University Researcher Responds – Not At All Adequately – To Our Story on the Grant From Chuck Wielgus of USA Swimming Via the American Swimming Coaches Association
October 15, 2014

by Irvin Muchnick


Last week we showed you the fawning and thoroughly embarrassing tribute to USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus in a special edition of the magazine of the American Swimming Coaches Association. This came on the heels of the campaign by many of the sport’s victims of coach sexual abuse, which forced the International Swimming Hall of Fame to withdraw its announced induction of Wielgus. See

Concussion Inc. now has obtained an August 26 email from ASCA head John Leonard to his board of directors and others (including USA Swimming exec Pat Hogan), in which Leonard discusses how Wielgus “fast-tracked” a $23,000 grant to the organization to underwrite a research study. Below, we’ll tell you what we’ve been able to find out so far about this murky channeling of funds from the dues of USA Swimming’s 400,000 members to a trade group of coaching professionals, which Leonard has described as having no mission to protect children “in any way, shape, or form.”

First, here’s the full text of the Leonard memo:


From: “John Leonard” <<>>

Date: August 26, 2014 at 7:24:15 AM CDT
To: “Bill Wadley” <<>>, “‘Chuck Warner'” <<>>, “David Marsh” <<>>, “Don Heidary” <<>>, “Eddie Reese” <<>>, “George Block” <<>>, “Gregg Troy” <<>>, “Ira Klein” <<>>, “Jack Bauerle” <<>>, “James Tierney” <<>>, “Jennifer Gibson” <<>>, “Joel Shinofield” <<>>, “John Collins” <<>>, “Mark Hesse” <<>>, “Mary Anne Gerzanick-Liebowitz” <<>>, “Matt Kredich” <<>>, “Pat Hogan” <<>>, “Peter Daland” <<>>, “Peter Malone” <<>>, “Richard Shipherd” <<>>, “Richard Shoulberg” <<>>, “Steve Morsilli” <<>>, “Tim Welsh” <<>>, “Timothy Murphy” <<>>, “Tom Avischious” <<>>
Subject: Current Research project – Chuck Wielgus
Reply-To: <<>>

Chuck Wielgus is a great pleasure to work with.

6 weeks ago, I explained to him that the USRPT nonsense had no coherent background in terms of training young athletes (as 98% of USA Swimming athlete members are…) but that it had a lot of appeal to young coaches (and athletes) who are not knowledgeable about the history of training in the world and were being hoodwinked into thinking this is something NEW and of course young coaches are easily seduced by anything they perceive as “new” and especially if it means less work and is touted as the reason for the success of the latest Phenom.

When in fact of course it is a failed methodology that was widely used in the 50’s, resurrected for about 2-3 years in 1970 with the famous Fox and Matthews book, etc. In each case, the valid principle of “specificity” (used by every coach who knows anything since the 1910’s) was being “abused” and presented as something it is not….but in the absence of contrary real science as evidence, young coaches were being led astray by the hundreds…….

I asked Chuck to fund a literature research study, and asked Dr. Joel Stager at IU to conduct the study.

Chuck immediately agreed, based on his philosophy that any science he was willing to fund, had to produce useful applied information that coaches could find useful right away. Joel of course was eager to proceed. The cost is $23,000.00

Today I signed and returned a letter to Chuck that assigns that amount of money to the ASCA as the managing partner in this study. This has meant that Chuck “fast tracked” this so we don’t have to wait for the 2015 budget year for Joel to begin. I believe Joel will have the study done and we can distribute it before the new year.

Incredible how fast and how well Chuck can grasp the need, find a way, make it happen. He’s one of my heroes in life. This fabulous man personifies the case of “athlete centered, Coach Directed and Administratively supported.”

What a gem. I never want to take that sort of excellence for granted. Anyone of you with the time to send along a quick THANK YOU to Chuck, would be much appreciated by me….even if Chuck calls it “just doing his job.”

Thanks. All the Best, JL 


The content of the projected research is of no moment to anyone other than hardcore swimming insiders. In a nutshell, there’s a hot new trend in swimming theory, which threatens the turf of the coaching establishment. Some in the establishment want to debunk the theory before it becomes too popular. Enter Wielgus.

Presumably there is paperwork supporting a grant application, independent of this hyperventilating report by Leonard that Wielgus and USA Swimming “fast-tracked” $23,000. Even so, the grant and its procedures would leave open questions as to why the money was being funneled to ASCA, rather than directly to the research team.

I contacted Joel Stager, director of the Counsilman Center on the Science of Swimming at Indiana University’s department of kinesiology – ultimate recipient of the grant. So far Stager has not commented.

However, knowledgeable swimming sources describe Stager as having very low regard for John Leonard and ASCA, and they say he would never have accepted a grant under these conditions. These sources say Indiana University has composed a careful grant application with a detailed budget, and submitted it to USA Swimming. The study is about to get under way.

Meanwhile, Leonard’s email raises ethical issues that inevitably will get folded into federal investigations of the sexual abuse issue. The ASCA chief’s gushing praise of the USA Swimming chief – identical, in its over-the-top lack of professionalism, to that of the introduction to the Wielgus ASCA magazine tribute issue – is now tied to a dubious financial transaction.

Wielgus (and USA Swimming communications director Scott Leightman) and Leonard were contacted for this story but did not respond.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick