Mark Schubert and John Leonard Issue Denials Over Robert Allard Abuse-Related Accusations

American Swim Coaches Association Mark Schubert
Mark Schubert - Photo Courtesy: Swimming World

Mark Schubert and John Leonard, two of the most senior coaching figures in World swimming for the past 40 years have flatly denied accusations against them in an open letter from Robert Allard, the lawyer representing sexual abuse victims and claimants, to USA Swimming.

Neither Schubert, who has informed local media in California that he is minded to file a defamation lawsuit against Allard as a result of the letter,  nor Leonard are accused of abuse but their alleged misdemeanours are worthy of expulsion from USA Swimming, says Allard. The lawyer pointed to a catalogue of abuse claims and a trail of victims whose stories are well-documented in investigative coverage of sex abuse sandals in sport by the likes of Scott M. Reid at the Orange County Register.

Allard issued the open letter on behalf of six victims this week with a call to USA Swimming to “dismantle a culture of sexual abuse” he claims to have been at the heart of the organisation against a backdrop of crime and scandal in various Olympic sports.

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Athlete A – Photo Courtesy: Netflix

The issues, from actual crime to covering up matters and creating an environment in which rogues can prosper, were brought into sharp focus by the Athlete A documentary on USA Gymnastics, the victims of Larry Nasser, the former federation doctor, and the failures of officials to raise the alarm and act on the warnings of abuse brought to their attention by athletes, parents and others.

The letter, delivered to USA Swimming chief executive Tim Hinchey, contains a scatter-gun of accusations and calls on the organisation to purge itself of what Allard describes as “a deeply embedded culture … which condones the criminal sexual behaviour of coaches towards its underage athletes”.

Swimming World has requested comment from USA Swimming.

The letter sets out specific accusations against eight individuals and names a further seven officials at USA Swimming among those who either were or should have been aware or made aware of any allegations of sexual misconduct and/or abuse. Last month, six women filed lawsuits alleging that USA Swimming failed to protect them from sexual abuse from coaches Mitch Ivey, Everett Uchiyama and Andy King, all coaches banned for life.

King was arrested in April 2009 after a 14-year-old San Jose swimmer told police that he had molested her at various times between May 2008 to March 2009. King was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading no contest to 20 counts of felony child molestation in September 2009. Some of his victims were as young as 10 years old.

While the open letter acknowledges some action was taken by USA Swimming after lawsuits were filed, it calls on Hinchey to go further and “publicly and permanently ban” eight individuals from USA Swimming. The demand covers abusers and those accused of cover-ups .

Allard’s Accusations Are False, Say Mark Schubert and John Leonard

Schubert, a former head coach to USA Swimming and a member of the pantheon of the world’s leading swimming coaches throughout history, is accused by Allard of “remaining silent and failing to take action to protect minor swimmers when presented with information about predator coaches”, of extortion and retaliation. Further, he was “callous and depraved” to have dismissed a sex-abuse victim from the University of Texas in 1989 after the swimmer confided in him, according to Allard.

In response, Schubert said that it was his opinion that Allard was “fishing for clients” but added: “I don’t mean to infer that these situations aren’t serious: they are serious. But he’s working for clients so he can sue for money. That’s only my opinion.” Even so, Allard’s approach was “ridiculous”. Schubert added:

“I don’t really know the facts of these other people other than to say I was pretty shocked to see the accusations against Mary Jo Swaley. I know a lot of those were false. The other cases I just don’t know that well but if he’s treating them like he’s treating me, there you go.”

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John Leonard

Leonard, now retired as director of the American and the World Swimming Coaches associations (ASCA) and for decades a key advocate in the war against doping as a leader at the World Swimming Coaches Association (WSCA) is accused by Allard of facilitating abusers, working to “oppose any regulations on coaches” and honouring coaches he knew to have committed abuse. Further, he “acted as a vocal and determined opponent to meaningful solutions to protect children from abuse, including working against a Code of Conduct, Zero Tolerance Policy, Child Protection Policy and expanded background checks”.

In a flat denial when asked by Swimming World for comment, Leonard, like Mark Schubert, addressed each of Allard’s points in turn. Leonard said he was astonished to read Allard’s accusation that Murray Stephens, inducted in the ASCA Hall of Fame in 2006, and Peter Malone, inducted in 2009, were, respectively, a “sexual predator” and a “child molester”. Said Leonard said:

“I am not aware of anything banning Murray anywhere. He is not on the banned list. I am not, nor have I ever been, aware of any accusations of Murray in this regard. Same for Pete Malone. No charges, no accusations.”

On the allegation that ASCA was “a lobby mechanism for swim coaches across America designed to oppose any regulations on coaches it represents.a lobby mechanism for swim coaches across America designed to oppose any regulations on coaches it represents”, Leonard, who noted that he “never held a leadership position at USA Swimming”, said:

“I served as a member of a number of committees. Period. I have not been active with the ASCA since retiring Dec. 31, 2019. The purposes of the ASCA are clearly laid out in our bylaws – which are available online. Never has the organization ever worked to prevent regulation of our coach members. In point of fact, we have worked with USA Swimming on coach education and requirements in a joint manner since 1985. We serve the sport, we are not a Union of coaches.”

He pointed to the ASCA Code of Ethics. He had never had “leadership positions with USA Swimming” but served on various committees as a coach representative, and Leonard also denied that he had opposed Safe Sport recommendations during any of that time.

In 1991, he attended a series of meetings of an “Abuses Committee” established to deal with allegations of abuse coming out of the swimming community. That committee had come up with a long list of Safe Sport recommendations, some of which were already ASCA’s Code of Conduct. Some of the key recommendations made in 1991 were not adopted by USA Swimming until 2010 as part of “Safe Sport”.

Further, Leonard looked back down the years and asserted that from 1991 onward he had spoken up when he disagreed with any part of “what we’re doing in USA Swimming, whether it be safe sport or any other action that I was involved in on any committee”.  On the Abuses Committee, he had not agreed with all aspects of discussions along the way but recalls: “I did agree with the final documents that were sent forward at that time.”

Discussions included a recommendation for banning all relationships between athletes and coaches of whatever age but some athletes had resisted that saying that as adults they felt they had the right to choose who they had relationships with. There was disagreement on the issue, Leonard recalls, and believe that such disagreement is a standard part of the debate that happens when contentious issues are raised in committee work. He notes:

“Surely expressing disagreement is not the same as not supporting an overall concept. I believe that expressing [your views] where you think something is incorrect, weak or just a poor way to address something is exactly what you have committee members.”

He had always conducted business on that principle, he asserted, and had never simply “rubber-stamped anything United States Swimming” suggested, on any issue.

Allard suggests in his letter that the former USA Team director Everett Uchiyama “was peddled to a nearby posh country club in Colorado Springs” after USA Swimming accepted his resignation in January 2006 on the way to him being banned for life for abuse. “Leonard, on behalf of ASCA, awarded him with a coveted swim school franchise,” writes Allard.

Says Leonard: “A check of the ASCA database regarding Everett shows that he was never a SwimAmerica Director. The only update was when we removed him from ASCA membership after his ban from USA Swimming. Wherever Allard got his information, it is incorrect.”

Accused of honouring coaches “knowing full well” they were abusers, Leonard noted that he “never personally had any relationship with any ASCA Awards. They are totally and completely a Board function.”

Schubert – ‘I Was Not Silent’

Mark Schubert is cited as having been on the ASCA Board when Mitch Ivey was up for Coach of the Year.

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Three of the sex abuse survivors and their lawyer took part in a Zoom press conference – Photo Courtesy: Childhood Sexual Abuse Lawyers

Among those Allard is representing is Suzette Moran, one of Mitch Ivey’s victims. Her story of having been groomed and then abused from 16 years of age is among several harrowing tales of criminal activity in swimming that have yet to be addressed decided after the harmful events

In 1993, Ivey was dismissed from his job at the University of Florida after allegations surfaced that he was having sex with teenage girls and that the behaviour stretched back to abuse of swimmers during his time as an athlete in the 1970s.

Ivey was nominated for Coach of the Year in the same 12-month period as he was fired. Mark Schubert recalls speaking to Leonard about it. In turn, Leonard asked Ivey to step down pending inquiries and he never received the top coach award.

It would then be almost 20 years before USA Swimming banned Ivey for life after the federation came to the view that “the evidence is clear that [Ivey] used his control and imbalance of power and authority over numerous underage females who swam with him which resulted in inappropriate sexual and romantic relationships.”

On the allegation of “remaining silent and failing to take action to protect minor swimmers when presented with information about predator coaches”, Mark Schubert said:

“It’s completely false.”

He extends the thought by addressing another of Allard’s accusations, that “In his capacity as National Team Director for USA Swimming in 2010, Schubert learned that Olympic Coach Sean Hutchison was sexually abusing his swimmer Ariana Kukors.” Schubert told Swimming World:

“Any time I became aware of abuse I reported it, even if it was between two consenting adults, like with Sean Hutchison and Ariana Kukors. I reported it to his [Hutchison’s] employer because it was inappropriate. They were both adults … I heard the rumour – and that’s all I reported it as, was a rumour.

“Absolutely, I never knew of anything like that before November of 2010, which was after I had left USA Swimming. The complaint that I knew about it when I was National Team Head Coach is incorrect.”

Schubert described USA Swimming’s initial investigation into Hutchison – which found him not guilty – as “somewhat cursory”.

On the story of Kelley Currin, who was sexually abused by her then swim coach Rick Curl from 1982 when she was just 13 and he was 33, Schubert shakes his head again. In 2013, a Maryland court sentenced Curl, 63, to seven years in prison for abusing Currin.

Schubert noted that he had not recruited Currin to the program at the University of Texas (Curl had) but “I did get to coach her for a year, which was a good experience. She asked to speak to me confidentially, so we met in my office and she told me in graphic detail about her situation with Rick. She begged me to keep it in confidence because her parents and her had come to a financial settlement, which was under confidentiality agreement.”

Schubert informed his Athletic Director and Associated Athletic Director but told not-one else because “that was her wish”. He added:

“At that point she was an adult. Her parents were aware of it,. Her attorney was aware of it and apparently they didn’t report it.”

Schubert said that he had never voted for Curl to be “Coach of the Year” in 1994 and did not report what he had been told by Currin because she had “begged” him not to. Her parents had signed a confidentiality clause as part of an $80,000 financial settlement.

Allard, said Mark Schubert, “twists the facts to basically justify his view point, which is … just false.”

Schubert is accused of having “retaliated against well-respected swim coach Dia Rianda for complaining about predatory behavior displayed by fellow coach Bill Jewell”.

In 2013, Coach Rianda’s complaint, mirrored by other women coaches, about Jewell’s behaviour with female athletes was supported by inquiry and USA Swimming banned him for three years over “a pattern of inappropriate behavior, including making sexually explicit comments toward athletes and other individuals affiliated with the club.”

USA Swimming notified Schubert and board president Patrick Gillespie and also noted that “there was no allegation of or evidence to support inappropriate sexual touching.”

Rianda lost her job at the Golden West Swim Club run by Schubert, allegedly because she spoke out about Jewell’s unacceptable behaviour and highlighted other concerns she had. A settlement was reached.

The story of Rianda, whatever the details of the non-disclosure reached, highlights the struggle, at personal costs, financial and emotional, of many safe-sport advocates trying to achieve what they note should be simple: the protection of children and athletes  and the delivery, as one source put it “of a safe environment in sport, rogue and operator free and void of coaches – and others – who fall shy of the decency and ethics expected”.

The source added that beyond the harrowing details of actual abuse “there is a disturbing common thread in the narrative of many victims, survivors and advocates: they have found themselves silenced, blocked, ostracised, challenged legally and forced to face a hostile environment that doesn’t;t lend itself to reporting of abuse by those who need to feel confident that they won;’t be made a victim all over again.”

Rogues’ Gallery Includes The Convicted, The Un-investigated & Some Never Accused

Meanwhile, Mark Schubert gave a flat denial to Allard’s final claim that he remained silent and took no action against “the following coaches known by him to be predators: George Gibney, Scott McFarland, Daniel Adam Dusenbury, Will Colebank, Murray Stephens, Richard Quick, Paul Bergen, Andy King and Mitch Ivey“.

Schubert said the presence of Quick’s name on the list was “shocking” but denied even knowing Irish coach George Gibney, accused of abuse by various swimmers back home, and didn’t think he had even ever met him. Others on the list he knew to have been “reported to USA Swimming before I found out about ’em”.

The issues date back decades. While the likes of King and Ivey had been bright to account, Paul Bergen is the biggest name on the list never to have faced proper inquiry.

An Olympic coach in 1980, 1984, 1988 and 2000, he stands accused of abusing Olympic gold medallist of 1972 Deena Deardurff from the time she was 11:

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Michael Connellan

    I knew Murray Stephens well for many years when my daughters swam for North Baltimore [“NBAC”] in the 1980s and 1990s, even before Meadowbrook was refurbished. I never saw Murray to have any but the highest standards, nor did I ever hear from anyone – including parents – of anything negative about his character or morals. Based on my own personal experience I find Mr. Allard’s words to be disgusting in their implication, and without any credibility.

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