COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, May 29. AFTER initially reporting about a Women’s Sports Foundation organized protest against Chuck Wielgus’ impending induction into the International Hall of Fame, Swimming World has obtained a seven-page document response sent from USA Swimming to ISHOF regarding the protest.
In our earlier report, we noted that USA Swimming had sent a document package to ISHOF to rebut the protest letter’s claims against USA Swimming’s Executive Director. Now, we can reveal the full document to our readers.
The document is co-signed by current and past presidents Bruce Stratton (2010-present), Jim Wood (2006-2010), Ron Van Pool (2002-2006), Dale Neuburger (1998-2002) and Carol Zaleski (1994-1998).
The document also includes a personal response from Wielgus himself:
Over the past few days, there has been a lot of talk about me personally and professionally. While it is embarrassing and uncomfortable, it has given me a chance to reflect and share my thoughts. As I see things written about me and this great organization, I quickly see that the story that hasn’t been told is what is in my heart.
For me personally, the abuse by coaches in the sport has weighed heavily on me more than any other topic. We all wish we had a do-over at periods in life and that was one for me. It’s devastating to hear or read that anyone has gone through sexual abuse. Talking with victims personally gave me a first-hand experience I will never forget and it impacted me deeply. When someone is hurt in our organization, I hurt. We all hurt in USA Swimming. While I always try to be better each day, I know in my heart that pressure has made us better, whether from the media, victims or victim’s advocates. I pride myself and this organization on being able to listen and learn.
In a recent email with an advocate for abuse victims, I shared my personal thoughts. I know it’s long overdue to share this sentiment more widely. In hindsight, I wish I would have said it earlier, more often and more eloquently but this is what I shared:
I have not done a good job of expressing how I truly feel, and I feel awful to know that you and others think that USA Swimming, or me personally, has not been empathetic or shown sensitivity to victims. The responsibility for this rests on my shoulders and I sincerely apologize for this failing. I have a small plaque on my desk that says, “Speak little, do much” and I’d like to think that our efforts to construct the Safe Sport Program have in a way been the best possible evidence of caring and commitment.
I will be the first to admit that I wish I would have expressed my feelings better to share how truly sorry I am personally, and we all are as a sport, that sexual abuse by a coach could happen to any young person. It’s devastating to know that anyone has endured such abuse. I have met privately with victims, I have listened to the words of outside experts, I have had conversations with my own daughters, and I have put real effort into becoming better informed and educated. Perhaps these are things that I need to talk about more openly and I will look for opportunities to do so.
The Safe Sport Program holds an important and impactful place within USA Swimming. I will continue to listen, learn and serve our community to the best of my abilities.
The document goes on to counter each of the protest letter’s claims with USA Swimming’s side of the story. For the full read, look below:
Full document package