USA Swimming officials reportedly ignored hundreds of sexual abuse cases involving its coaches for decades.
According to investigatory documents obtained by the Southern California News Group's Scott M. Reid and published Friday, a pervasive "complacency" among officials caused USA Swimming to miss "opportunities to overhaul a culture within American swimming where the sexual abuse of underage swimmers by their coaches and others in positions of power within the sport was commonplace and even accepted by top officials and coaches."
The allegations piled up during Chuck Wielgus' tenure as USA Swimming's executive director, which lasted from 1997-2017.
During that time, "at least 252 swim coaches and officials have been arrested, charged by prosecutors, or disciplined by USAS for sexual abuse or misconduct against individuals under 18." In total, there are more than 590 alleged victims.
"Chuck could have been a hero and been instrumental to change the dynamic that has haunted so many," former Olympic swimmer and Safe4Athletes founder Katherine Starr told Reid. "But instead he (was) a coward and single-handedly allowed sexually abusive coaching to thrive for decades in the sport, leaving a wreckage of pain that has caused great harm to many swimmers that has lasted a lifetime."
On Jan. 26, Reid reported the House Committee on Energy and Commerce had launched an investigation regarding USA Swimming's handling of sexual abuse allegations after former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct, with more than 150 women and girls saying in court he sexually abused them.
"The abhorrent abuses associated with USA Gymnastics, as well as allegations in 2014, when 19 swimmers said they were sexually abused by their coaches, may raise concerns about whether your organization has sufficient mechanisms to protect your athletes from abuse and mistreatment," the committee wrote. "Accordingly, the Committee is seeking information from USA Swimming because of the role it plays in overseeing swimming and protecting all of its athletes."