The Western Massachusetts news media are reporting that Randy Smith, the coach accused of molesting teen swimmer Anna Strzempko – both in statements to Congressional investigators and in Outside magazine writer Rachel Sturtz’s recent article on the burgeoning USA Swimming sexual abuse scandals – was not banned by swimming’s National Board of Review.
At the same time, Smith is saying he doesn’t plan to do any more coaching. Yet Smith is also holding up the NBR ruling as proof of his vindication. Nonsense.
A month before publication of the Outside article, which was quickly followed by an NBR hearing, USA Swimming’s lawyers settled the Strzempko family’s lawsuit against the organization, according to well-placed sources in Colorado Springs . The terms of the settlement are sealed, but the Strzempkos were believed to have been compensated in the mid-six figures.
Anyone paying attention knows that USA Swimming would never acknowledge that level of exposure, then turn around and “exonerate” Smith. What is far likelier is that the swimming authorities believe Anna’s allegations – as we do – but felt they lacked sufficient evidence to prove them.
So, in swimming’s typical triple-jointed way, they dodged and weaved and feinted a resolution that resolves nothing. The only thing served is the public relations agenda of a multimillion-dollar phony nonprofit corporation. There certainly is no satisfaction of the public interest in a safe and transparent environment for youth athletes.
And that is why USA Swimming as prosecutor, judge, and jury of its own sexual misconduct complaints is such a farce. The new $15 million … or is it $25 million? … U.S. Olympic Committee sex police, run by the same people with the same CYA agenda, promises no better. Reforming the Amateur Sports Act, by installing oversight and accountability, is a job for the United States Congress.
Regarding the collapse of the administrative review of Smith: The timeline establishes that this was solely because USA Swimming had long ago already told Anna to take her complaint and shove it. In September 2013 her mother, Monica Strzempko, received a FedEx package from Safe Sport director Susan Woessner announcing that the case was closed. The reason it got reopened was the subsequent certainty of bad publicity fallout from stories by both Outside and Al Jazeera America television. With Congressman George Miller, the Government Accountability Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation all also investigating USA Swimming abuse and cover-up, that was a scary formula for million-dollar-a-year CEO Chuck Wielgus and his band of apparatchiks.
Having been rebuffed before, the Strzempkos declined to give swimming the legitimacy of a kangaroo court do-over.
Then there’s the role of Victor Vieth, director emeritus of the Gundersen Health System’s Child Protection Training Center . Vieth, who had been hired to author an “independent review” of swimming’s Safe Sport program, spoke at length with Monica Strzempko just days before she received Woessner’s 2013 FedEx brush-off.
Vieth’s report, published in January 2014, would go on to say Safe Sport was doing a swell job. He also claimed the Child Protection Training Center was paid “around $25,000” for this effort. However, a footnote in the document, plus USA Swimming’s internal memos about a $200,000 allocation of members’ dues for a campaign to “improve perceptions,” suggest that the real tab was “around $25,000 times four” – and that this “independent review” commission was, in any case, merely a down payment on a dangling carrot in the millions of bucks.
As for the Randy Smith NBR ruling, Vieth told the media that Anna would have to be “a very good liar” if she wasn’t telling the truth about what Smith did to her. Because, you see, kids “usually” don’t make things up when they accuse adults of sex abuse.
The families of swimming and other amateur sports don’t need Vieth’s bromides and academic statistics on pedophiles. They need a watchdog, with teeth.