Six Women Name USA Swimming, Former Coaches in Sexual Assault Lawsuits

USA Swimming

Six women have filed civil suits against USA Swimming this month in California over sexual abuse at the hands of coaches, an investigation revealed.

Among the other entities named in the lawsuits, according to an investigation by the Orange County Register News, are USA Swimming’s Southern California and Northern California (Pacific) associations, former national team coach Mitch Ivey, U.S. national team director Everett Uchiyama and former swim coach Andy King.

The suit alleges that high-ranking officials, in the state and at USA Swimming, knew about predatory behavior by coaches and didn’t take proper steps to address it. They expressed concerns that such a culture remains within the swimming ranks today.

Debra Grodensky (maiden name Denithorne) is one of the women suing. She was sexually assaulted by King starting at age 12 and raped by him at age 15. At age 16, the 37-year-old King asked her to marry him, leading to her quitting the sport.

“I want this lawsuit to wake up USA Swimming and to push them to mandate prevention, education, and training for its coaches, officials, volunteers, athletes, and parents,” Grodensky told the Register.

USA Swimming has taken action on all three men. King was convicted on charges of sexual abuse and is serving a 40-year prison sentence. He had been banned from the sport prior to that. Ivey was banned for life in 2013. Uchiyama was banned for life in 2010. But it took years of abuse and scores of victims before that happened.

“USA Swimming must clean house and get rid of the coaches and executives that created this culture that condones sexual abuse by coaches and that still exists today,” said Suzette Moran, who has alleged abuse at the hands of Ivey. “If I have the courage to tell my story on a national stage, USA Swimming should have the courage to clean house and make this sport safer for all children.”

USA Swimming responded with the following statement:

“We are aware of the information publicly released today in California. We fully support survivors of sexual abuse along their healing journey. USA Swimming’s Safe Sport program continues to work with prominent health and education experts to provide meaningful member resources and SwimAssist funding to those in need. The organization and its current leadership remain committed to providing a safe environment and a positive culture for all its members.

“The three named offenders have long been on USA Swimming’s list of Individuals Permanently Suspended or Ineligible for Membership due to the allegations of misconduct from the 1980s and 1990s, and the U.S. Center for SafeSport has recognized and honored our bans.”

The lawsuits are made possible by Assembly Bill 218, signed into law last year in California, that allows a three-year window opening Jan. 1, 2020 to file sexual assault claims beyond previously expired statutes of limitations.

USA Swimming has been under pressure over mishandling of sexual assault cases, joining other governing bodies like USA Taekwondo and USA Gymnastics. Olympic governing bodies have had additional requirements in reporting and reacting to claims of abuse of athletes, particularly minors, since the 2017 law that created the U.S. Center for SafeSport, though that has also come under fire recently.

From the Register’s investigation:

The suits come as USA Swimming, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service for the organizations’ handling of sex abuse cases and financial practices related to sex abuse crimes, according to eight people familiar with the investigations.

Read the full investigation by the Orange County Register here.