Irish Times, Seat of Global Sex Abuse Coverage, Says USA Swimming ‘May Be Largest Abuse Scandal in the History of Sport’

2015 Reset: Muchnick-Joyce Interview With Outside Magazine
January 9, 2015
2015 Reset: Topical Guide to Concussion Inc.’s Coverage of USA Swimming Sex Abuse Scandals
January 12, 2015

Dublin’s Irish Times is ground zero of the global story of abuse by youth swimming coaches. That is where, 20 years ago, the newspaper’s Johnny Watterson broke the story in that country. The shuttling between Ireland the United States of some of the most heinous characters in that tableaux remains a story in itself.

Later Justine McCarthy, formerly of the Irish Times and now with London’s Sunday Times, would publish the definitive and superb book, Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals. We discussed the book here: https://concussioninc.net/?p=6063. We interviewed McCarthy here: https://concussioninc.net/?p=6245.

Today Dave Hannigan of the Irish Times has one of the best and most comprehensive accounts of the horror on this side of the pond. See “US Swimming sexual abuse scandal continues to grow,” http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/other-sports/us-swimming-sexual-abuse-scandal-continues-to-grow-1.2060550.

Hannigan correctly notes that the numbers indicate this could be “the largest abuse scandal in the history of sport.”

The Irish Times also generously gives me the last word:

 

“The key reason swimming became the ‘perfect storm’ setting of youth coach sexual abuse has to do with the career cycle of female athletes in this sport,” says Irvin Muchnick, who has co-led a campaign to hold authorities to account through the website Concussion Inc.

“In track and field, by contrast, women peak a bit later, so the scandals tend to involve coaches’ inappropriate interactions with those they oversee at the collegiate and pro levels. In swimming, the common paradigm is a 30-something or older coach and the star a 13- to 16-year-old girl.

“She has just developed hips and breasts, and if she is still driven to dominate her competitors as she did when she was younger, she will need to take her training and commitment to a new level – all at the same time she is developing the body of a young woman.

“She becomes uniquely dependent – in terms of hours spent together, and both career advancement and generic male approval sought from – on an authority figure who might be oblivious to boundaries. This is where ‘grooming’ sets in.”

 

Here is the full quote I gave Dave Hannigan, before it got edited for space:

 

I think the key reason swimming became the “perfect storm” setting of youth coach sexual abuse has to do with the career cycle of female athletes in this sport. In track and field, by contrast, women peak a bit later, into their 20’s, so the scandals tend to involve coaches’ inappropriate interactions with those they oversee at the collegiate and pro levels. There, the problem is closer to what women across the board face: workplace sexual harassment.
 
In swimming, the common paradigm is a 30-something or older coach and the star 13- to 16-year-old girl. She has just developed hips and breasts, and if she is still driven to dominate her competitors as she did when she was younger, she will need to take her training and commitment to a new level – all at the same time she is developing the body of a young woman. She becomes uniquely dependent – in terms of hours spent together, and both career advancement and generic male approval sought from – an authority figure who might be oblivious to boundaries. This is where “grooming” sets in, whether it resolves in statutory rape at the time or in a more arguably consensual relationship when she reaches adulthood.
 
That’s a good lead-in to the answer to your question about the role of parents in all this. I believe the American amateur sports system is crazy in its scale and obsessive professionalization. Far too many kids, either egged on by their moms and dads or inadequately supervised by them, dive headlong into the quest for Olympic glory or college scholarships. Most of the parents who question the excesses of the system do so only after the fact, when the worst has already happened to their kids while they were asleep at the switch: traumatic brain injury for boys in the blood sport of American football, sexual abuse for girls in swimming and numerous other sports.
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Irvin Muchnick’s forthcoming book from ECW Press, CONCUSSION INC: The End of Football As We Know It, can be pre-ordered at http://amzn.to/1yQNPXY.

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