INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, November 15. LAST week, a civil lawsuit was filed against USA Swimming, Indiana Swimming, Lawrence Township schools as well as various other individuals including Christopher Wheat, according to the Indy Star.
As previously reported more than a year ago, Wheat was sentenced to 10 years for sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old swimmer. Wheat, a former assistant coach at Lawrence North High School and for the Lawrence Swim Team in Indiana, also was added to the Banned for Life List for the abuse as of December 8, 2009.
The victim's lawyer, Jonathan Little, has sent out a press release that includes a copy of text messages that indicate that a fellow coach also knew of the sexual abuse and did not notify authorities. Little further claims that the system, which includes USA Swimming, Indiana Swimming and the Lawrence Township school system, could and should have acted to keep Wheat out of the sport even before the sexual abuse occurred with the victim.
"USA Swimming and Indiana Swimming had two chances to stop the coach before he molested the girl, identified as ‘Jane Doe,'" Little told the indy Star.
USA Swimming has responded with the following official statement:
"We have received several press inquiries related to a press conference given by an Indiana attorney announcing the filing of a lawsuit against USA Swimming and Indiana Swimming. At this time, USA Swimming has not been served with a suit so we are not in a position to comment on these claims. However, to the extent that the attorney has claimed that USA Swimming has a culture of protecting pedophiles, that is categorically untrue. There is nothing more important to USA Swimming than the safety and well-being of its 300,000 members. For that reason, the organization has developed one of the most comprehensive Athlete Protection Programs among Olympic Sports.
"In addition, the attorney's allegation that USA Swimming had been warned of sexual abuse by Chris Wheat is also untrue. The first instance that USA Swimming learned about abuse by Chris Wheat was when we were notified of his arrest in October 2009. Upon learning of the arrest, USA Swimming immediately implemented the process to expel and permanently ban Chris Wheat from USA Swimming which was accomplished in December 2009."