by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
A multi-generation fugue to the discordant multi-movement symphony that is the USA Swimming sexual abuse scandals doesn’t even involve an American citizen. In this series of articles, Concussion Inc. explores the tangled tale of former Irish national swim team coach George Gibney, now 63 years old and living underground in Central Florida. If Gibney isn’t the gold medal fugitive pedophile of all of global sports, then he definitely belongs somewhere on the medal podium.
Gibney was a core bad guy in the book by Justine McCarthy, Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals. McCarthy, who now writes for the Sunday Times of London, is responsible for uncovering many of the facts in this piece and in our ongoing series. Credit also goes to founder and investigator Evin Daly of the organization Child AbuseWatch.
Among Americans, Gibney is probably best known for having coached the steroid-soaked Michelle Smith, who turned in record performances at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Smith’s illicit enhancements cost several USA swimmers — most notably Allison Wagner, who took silver to Smith’s gold in the 400-meter individual medley.
But Gibney’s notoriety extends far and wide beyond the water. By the time Smith dazzled in Atlanta, her mentor was long gone, having been fired in 1992 and fled Ireland two years later — the beginnings of an odyssey that would take him to Scotland, Colorado, Utah, California, and now Florida. Gibney wasn’t prosecuted in ’92 only because he secured a court order, on technical and statute-of-limitations grounds, aborting his trial on 17 counts of sexual abuse. A 1998 government commission report would conclude that he molested dozens of children across three decades.
We will fill in the spaces of the full Gibney story as we move along. These include such items as his 1991 rape of a 17-year-old swimmer in a Florida hotel room, during a training trip, and the actions and inactions of his first employer in the Denver area in the late nineties. We’ll also get into the possible roles in protecting Gibney’s now-secret identity by both the Knights of Columbus (the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization) and Opus Dei (the Catholic sect featured in Dan Brown’s bestselling thriller The Da Vinci Code). But for this opening installment, we focus on two things:
* exactly where Gibney now resides, just north of Orlando. We are forwarding the address and details to news media outlets in the region, in the hope that they have the resources and will to follow up.
* the question of who assisted Gibney in acquiring U.S. immigration papers: first his temporary residence visa, then his permanent residence green card. A prime suspect is the American Swimming Coaches Association, the leading industry trade group.
Concussion Inc. is submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for Gibney’s file at the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services.
John Leonard, long-time executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association, is the most obstinate voice against toughened safety standards to protect youth athletes. In 2012 he told us, without prompting, “We do not not have an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape or form, according to our formative documents from 1958 and thereafter.”
ASCA seems to specialize in providing continued swimming industry employment to coaches who were banned or “flagged” by USA Swimming. Ad’m Dusenbury, for example, got an ASCA fellowship. Mitch Ivey got decades of consultancies writing instructional literature. Dustin Perry — recently banned for a multi-regional, multi-national reign of terror exposed by Concussion Inc. — served an earlier suspension by filling a coaching job in Mexico advertised by ASCA and supervised by ASCA Hall of Famer Jack Simon.
Perhaps most pertinently, exotic immigration troubleshooting services are a pillar of ASCA’s business model. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=9005.
Further circumstantial evidence of ASCA’s involvement can be found in the career arc of another Irish coach, Peter Banks (who, so far as we know, is not implicated in abuse allegations). Banks succeeded Gibney as Irish team head coach before also emigrating to the U.S. in the late 1990s. Operating out of Florida, Banks developed swimmer Brooke Bennett, who won gold medals in the 800-meter freestyle in Atlanta and in both the 400- and 800-meter freestyles at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. According to our American swimming sources, Banks became a U.S. citizen — a prerequisite for his joining the U.S. Olympic staff in Sydney.
But Banks thereafter left the active coaching ranks to work under Leonard at ASCA. He then moved back to his native country, where he is performance director for Swim Ireland, the national body. And ASCA now has a large presence in Ireland, for clinics and marketing.
Leonard and ASCA do not respond to these reporters’ inquiries. Perhaps journalists in Florida would have more luck. ASCA is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale — the same city where the late Jack Nelson, a legendary coach, almost certainly abused Diana Nyad in her early teens; where human trafficker and unindicted Peeping Tom and physical assailant Alex Pussieldi plied his wares for a decade and a half; and where the International Swimming Hall of Fame belatedly turned aside the induction of USA Swimming chief executive Chuck Wielgus, in the face of a petition campaign by dozens of abuse victims and their thousands of supporters.