Published December 1st, 2014
by Irvin Muchnick
As we began developing in yesterday’s first installment, the investigations of USA Swimming coach sexual abuse and cover-up are just part of a multi-sport, U.S. Olympic Committee-wide crisis. Another national governing body where the problem is in abundant evidence is U.S. Speedskating.
The complaints against speedskating’s Andy Gabel – concerning his place of honor in the sport’s Hall of Fame and his very continuing membership in USS – are alive and well, and growing.
In June, the Women’s Sports Foundation sponsored two Change.org public petitions by abuse victims. One targeted USA Swimming’s Chuck Wielgus. The other targeted Gabel.
Prematurely – and in our view, outrageously – the WSF declared “Victory!”, at 1,883 supporters, for the petition that got the International Swimming Hall of Fame to rescind its scheduled induction of Wielgus. WSF abandoned a second and more formidable petition to fully engage the U.S. Congress on the issue of abuse of kids in amateur sports.
Meanwhile, at the time of the anti-Wielgus “victory,” the anti-Gabel petition, with 3,226 supporters, was actually outpolling the swimming one. This initiative by speedskating dissidents now is up to 3,301 signatories – with no recent help from WSF or the news media. See “Remove Andy Gabel from the Speedskating Hall of Fame and Revoke his Lifetime Membership in U.S. Speedskating,” https://www.change.org/p/u-s-olympic-speedskating-board-of-directors-remove-andy-gabel-from-the-speedskating-hall-of-fame-and-revoke-his-lifetime-membership-in-u-s-speedskating.
In May, simultaneously with formulating and publishing the petition, a group of activists led by Eva Rodansky filed a formal complaint with USS. They wrote in part:
“USS has allowed Andy Gabel to remain in the Speed Skating national Hall of Fame despite his admissions, as quoted in a March 2, 2013 article in the Chicago Tribune, that ‘Almost two decades ago I displayed poor judgment in a brief, inappropriate relationship with a female teammate.’ And, upon information and belief, USS has not revoked Gabel’s lifetime membership in USS, which is granted to every USS Olympian. Upon information and belief, nothing is prohibiting Gabel from having contact with athletes in a coaching capacity, running for and serving on the USS board, or becoming an official of any capacity within USS.”
Gabel responded not with a defense against the charges, but with legal threats. In a May 30 letter to USS president Mike Plant, executive director Ted Morris, and Rodansky and the complainants, Gabel’s Las Vegas-based lawyer, Donald J. Campbell, said Gabel “will not hesitate to seek all legal redress available to him under the law” in the event of “any adverse action or inference” emanating from any consideration of the grievance.
So what is the status of the grievance? As things stand, nothing stops Gabel from holding any position with a sanctioned skating club or even running for an elective office.
Next, we’ll directly ask USS’s Plant and Morris about that.