Swimmers Issue Statement to USA Swimming on Sexual Misconduct

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The athlete members of the USA Swimming Board of Directors released a statement Monday afternoon regarding recent reports of USA Swimming mishandling claims of sexual misconduct.

The statement is signed by eight athlete board members, including four Olympic gold medalists: Natalie Coughlin HallAaron PeirsolAnthony Ervin and Davis Tarwater. Also signing the statement were former U.S. National Team members Chip Peterson and Mark Weber, along with Van Donkersgoed and Derek Paul.

The statement condemns sexual misconduct and acknowledges previous errors in judgement within the organization but points out that changes to USA Swimming and its culture through the Safe Sport program have made a positive impact.

Further, the statement calls for “holding accountable anyone involved with USA Swimming” anyone who allowed sexual misconduct to occur and calls on the Board of Directors to make removing sexual assault from swimming a “mandate.”

Read the full letter below. The athlete members provided an email address for members to reach out with their comments.

USA Swimming Board of Directors Athlete Statement Regarding Recent Media Coverage

The recent media coverage regarding USA Swimming, combined with the resignations of two of our senior staff, portrays a negative image of USA Swimming.

There is truth that in recent decades senior leadership, both within the volunteer governance and staff, made errors in judgment. This must be admitted. It is also true that USA Swimming has taken many positive institutional steps to better our sport and to protect athletes. Further action must reinforce the cultural and structural changes that are already underway.

First, we do not and will not tolerate sexual misconduct in the sport. We are disgusted with any person who would manipulate the duty of coaching and molding young people, as we are with any volunteer leader or staff member who enabled this to persist – either actively or passively. We stand with victims through our actions and we will stand up for them at the highest levels of USA Swimming by ensuring real and significant change. This includes holding accountable anyone involved with USA Swimming who either actively or passively allowed these tragedies to occur.

Where We’ve Been

In 2010, USA Swimming launched the Safe Sport program. This both acknowledged and started to fix the wrongs that took place in the past as well as those that may take place in the future. The evolution of that process involved the dedication and expertise of many athlete leaders – some of whom were themselves victims of sexual abuse.

We proudly emphasize one fact recent media coverage has omitted: while certainly not perfect, USA Swimming’s policies have become the model that other NGBs have strived for. Further, our procedures, including reporting, investigating, and adjudicating cases of misconduct have resulted in over 100 individuals being removed from the sport.

Where We Must Go

As the athlete leaders on the Board of Directors, we are calling on our Board colleagues and staff leadership to ensure that removing sexual misconduct from our ranks is not just a desire but a primary mandate for the entire organization.

Just as we strongly advocated last year for the governance restructuring which will clarify and elevate the accountability of both the Board of Directors and staff, we are calling on all members and stakeholders to move forward together in this endeavor as a united family.

We are continually evaluating the effectiveness of our Safe Sport Program and seeking ways to strengthen it for even greater athlete protection. We are focused on ensuring that our organization will be even more vigilant. And, we are committed to having more transparent and open discussion, including asking ourselves the hard questions as to why any complacence was allowed to exist, and to ensure that will not recur.

To close, we want to hear from you, athletes, and we call on you during this time to reach out with your feedback and questions.

Sincerely,

Mark Weber, Athletes’ Vice-Chair
Van Donkersgoed, Deputy Athletes’ Vice-Chair
Natalie Coughlin Hall, USOC AAC Representative
Anthony Ervin, USOC AAC Alternate Representative
Aaron Peirsol, FINA Athletes Commission
Davis Tarwater, Athlete Representative
Derek Paul, Athlete Representative
Chip Peterson, Athlete Representative

8 Comments
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4 years ago

Not a fan of the image you chose for this post. Seems misplaced.

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4 years ago
Reply to  Lance Holter

I’m no cloud expert but to me it seems to indicative of the impending shit storm that is developing.

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4 years ago

We also need to hold some past members of the USA-Swimming Board of Directors accountable and possibly REMOVE them from future involvement with the Board and any committee appointments if they had knowledge or approved of any legal or financial arrangements surrounding the Fullerton debacle or lobbying efforts against legislation in the state of California.

*Depositions need to be conducted with the following BOD members who served during Weilgus’ employment:

1. C. Zalesky
2. B. Stratton
3. J. Wood
4. E. Sheehan
5. D. Nueberger

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4 years ago

*The Board should have been reformed YEARS ago…….but I digress.

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4 years ago

Yes to identifying those who actively and passively allowed these tragedies to occur. The active is easier to identify, but the passive also need to be removed.

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4 years ago

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The image is illustrative of the coming storm of lawsuits coming for anyone who knowingly harbored these scum bag coaches !

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stepup
4 years ago

3 of these 8 board members missed the last 2 board meetings. Four of 8 missed the last one. UNACCEPTABLE. We need COMMITTED athlete voices. Question: are you ALL IN for athlete safety? Your actions speak volumes…..

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4 years ago

What about coaches who have been banned for life for simply hugging their swimmers in front of their parents??
I am one of those coaches, who for 48 years has been a warm, caring and humanistic coach, and a cold young female coach from a University who shared my pool, did not like the warmth she saw emanating from my team.
I am an ASCA Level 4 International rated coach and this young coach felt totally inadequate in my presence. She then twisted this warmth that she observed in my small team where parents sit behind me when I coach, to serve the vendetta she had against me, and Susan Woessner gleefully accepted her twisted complaint with sexual connotations, ………….and I was banned for life!
It seems that USA Swimming Safe Sport accept totally a complainant as credible,…….. and zero background checks are done on these self fulfilling people lodging complaints.
My life is destroyed by a vendetta to get me out of this facility based upon lies and twisted allegations.
USA Swimming let down a coach in his 48th year with an impeccable record, in the final chapter of his life.
I WILL prove my innocence.