Court Dismisses Damage Claims of Previously-Banned Coach Michael Pliuskaitis

Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

In 2013, USA Swimming added Michael Pliuskaitis to its Banned for Life listbanning him from membership in the organization.

The ban lists four separate code of conduct violations including 304.3.5, 304.3.7, 304.3.4 and 304.3.8, and the timing of the versions of each of these code of conduct violations lends itself towards sexual misconduct that occurred during a two-year period of time.

According to Law360.com, Pliuskaitis was accused of having a relationship with an underage athlete in 2012. His original ban dates back to Aug. 6, 2012, but he was not placed on the list until February of 2013 because of his appeal process. It was ultimately denied at this time.

In March of 2014, he was then removed from the list. According to the Washington Post, efforts by the American Arbitration Association found him eligible for reinstatement. They found that USA Swimming acted “arbitrarily and capriciously”. However, they denied his request for damages. At the time, USA Swimming abided by the decision:

“While USA Swimming does not agree with the arbitrator’s decision in the case of Pliuskaitis v. USA Swimming, we respect the ruling of the American Arbitration Association,” USA Swimming spokesperson Karen Linhart wrote in a statement. “Mike Pliuskaitis’ name has been removed from USA Swimming’s public list of Individuals Permanently Suspended or Ineligible for membership.”

Nearly four years later on Jan. 2, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit also said Pliuskaitis could not pursue a damages or defamation lawsuit because most of his claims are preempted by federal law and he filed for defamation too late.

The following excerpt from Law360.com explains what occurred in the four-year gap between the decisions:

Pliuskaitis never sought judicial review or modification of the arbitrator’s decision. Instead, he filed the instant suit in federal court about a year later, bringing claims against USA Swimming for defamation, breach of duty, violation of the Sports Act, breach of good faith and fair dealing, and tortious interference.

Generally, he argued that the process USA Swimming used to determine his ineligibility violated its own rules and regulations, that the organization improperly interfered with his ability to coach, and defamed him by falsely publishing on its “banned-for-life” list that he had violated a rule that was never part of the initial complaint or investigation.

The report explains that Pliuskaitis did not cite any specific internal rule violations from USA Swimming in his claims. Combined with the preemption from the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and the untimeliness of his request, the Court dismissed his claims.

Additionally, the Court determined that his claims fall under res judicata – they can be dismissed because they have already been decided on in arbitration.

Law360 and the Washington Post contributed to this report. 

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. avatar
    completelyconquered

    Just another life ruined by USA Swimming.

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Author: Diana Pimer

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Diana Pimer was a breaststroke/IMer at Keene State College and is the NEISDA Conference record holder in the 200 IM. She is currently an Age Group Coach at AGUA in New York City and has covered major competitions for Swimming World including the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, 2015 and 2017 FINA World Championships, USA Swimming Nationals and more.

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