PHOENIX, Arizona, February 26. A former vice president of USA Swimming has filed a complaint against the organization, claiming its background checking procedures have allowed a coach with a questionable history to fall through the cracks.
Mike Saltzstein, who was vice president at USA Swimming from 2000 to 2006, has long been critical of USA Swimming's actions to properly investigate coaches under its umbrella, and this week is using his research into the shady history of James Pantera as an example that USA Swimming's system isn't working.
According to an article by The Associated Press, Saltzstein discovered that Pantera has 11 other identities and more than one listed date of birth. The article also states that Pantera was jailed for a year for “making false statements and fraudulently obtaining student loans.”
Pantera has a website that describes him as a “Certified USA Swimming Life Member Coach” and “Certified American Swimming Coaches Association Level 5 Swim Coach for Age Group and Senior swimmers.”
To reach Level 5 in the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA), coaches must have guided numerous swimmers to the highest level of the sport, and have been a part of an international coaching squad, according to the ASCA website. This level of coaching comprises just 2 to 5 percent of the entire coaching community, and no record exists of Pantera achieving a place on USA Swimming's international coaching squad or guiding multiple swimmers to high school, collegiate or national success.
In an email sent today to Swimming World, ASCA Executive Director John Leonard said Pantera's ASCA membership is suspended pending an investigation by USA Swimming.
An email sent by Swimming World to reach Pantera today was not returned.
USA Swimming issued a statement to The Associated Press, saying that the organization will “carefully look into the matter” and that an investigation into a person's background depends largely on information given by members of the swimming community.
In order to obtain membership into USA Swimming, Pantera would have had to complete a background check through USA Swimming. Saltzstein's complaint states that Pantera received his lifetime USA Swimming membership last November.
Pantera's website also claims he was involved as strength and conditioning coach at an unnamed NCAA Division I school and age group coach at an unnamed club. He does list the Serra High School in San Diego as his current employer, where he claims to be the head swimming coach for this upcoming season. The school's website lists another name as head coach, and only websites created by Pantera list him as a coach at Serra High School.
“This individual apparently points out yet another major flaw in the new club system that is supposed to be protecting the athletes, their families and the community,” Saltzstein said in the article written by The Associated Press.