OAKLAND, California, September 7. ACCORDING to the East Bay Express, Oakland Undercurrent swim coach Ben Sheppard, who also served as a USA Swimming Diversity Specialist, has been fired from his position with USA Swimming and suspended by his swim club.
The paper reported that Sheppard "allegedly sent messages of an inappropriate nature to girls who were his former or current swimmers" in at least four instances. Sheppard denied the allegations to the East Bay Express.
In a statement, USA Swimming confirmed that Sheppard is "no longer an employee" and that the Oakland Undercurrents have suspended him. The East Bay Express also reported that Oakland Community Pools Project President Sally West "is currently conducting an investigation into the matter and Sheppard will not be coaching ‘until the investigation is completed.'"
USA Swimming's Statement in Full
Ben Sheppard is no longer an employee at USA Swimming and it is our understanding that his swim club suspended him.
Because this is a personnel issue, USA Swimming has no further comment on it. While we cannot discuss the details of any specific case, as a general matter it is USA Swimming's policy to investigate all formal complaints and to cooperate with law enforcement agencies. In addition, USA Swimming has a comprehensive athlete protection program and is committed to its full execution and enforcement.
USA Swimming is located in Colorado, which is an at-will state regarding employment. The organization has the ability to terminate its employees at any time. USA Swimming is not at liberty to state exactly why Sheppard no longer is employed at USA Swimming.
The process to strip Sheppard of his membership with USA Swimming, however, is a much slower and deliberate one instituted to protect all parties involved from a rash decision. Once an official first-hand complaint has been lodged with USA Swimming, which the East Bay Express reports has occurred, USA Swimming opens a preliminary stage of investigation. This information is then passed on to a third-party investigation firm, which conducts its own interviews and investigation into the matter.
This information is then submitted to a National Board of Review, which then rules whether a Code of Conduct violation in fact occurred. If a violation is ruled to have happened, then the accused is given 30 days to complete an appeal.
If an appeal is not completed successfully, then the person is added to the public USA Swimming banned list with the suspension date being listed as the date the National Board of Review made its ruling.
USA Swimming is not at liberty to confirm or deny whether an investigation is currently ongoing.