USA Swimming House of Delegates Closes Sexual Abuse Loopholes; Bans Coach/Athlete Relationships

GARDEN GROVE, California, September 14. THE USA Swimming House of Delegates met today as part of the United States Aquatic Sports Convention being held in Garden Grove this weekend. While several more technical rules were being voted on, the most high-profile proposals involved the Safe Sport program.

R-10, R-12, R-13 and R-14 all focused on strengthening the rulebook when it comes to protecting children from rogue members who may look to prey on them, and closing some other loopholes to be found in the Safe Sport rules

R-12 proposed, for the second year in a row, that consensual adult relationships between coaches and athletes be banned from the sport, where coaches have direct control over the athlete. Not only is this standard regarding sexual harassment laws throughout the country, it also is required by the United States Olympic Committee. This item was previously voted down by the House of Delegates, but passed today with zero discussion.

If this item had not been passed, it would have led to a showdown with the USOC regarding high performance funding as well as potential issues with USA Swimming continuing to be certified as the national governing body for the sport of swimming.

With some initial discussion following the proposal passing being concerned about currently married couples now being in violation, USA Swimming reminded its membership that it does not include pre-existing relationships.

New legislation prohibiting romantic relationships btwn adult coaches & adult athletes specifically exempts pre existing relationships.– USA Swim Safe Sport (@SwimSafeSport) September 14, 2013

Meanwhile, the other Safe Sport items also passed without discussion according to our source in the House of Delegates.

In R-10, USA Swimming board member David Berkoff added some redundancy to the rules. In 2010, the House of Delegates added a rule in the membership area of the bylaws allowing the Board of Review to have jurisdiction over former members.

This 2010 vote closed a loophole where code of conduct violators that were no longer members of USA Swimming could not, by definition of the organization’s bylaws, be banned for life. These alleged perpetrators used to be handled with a private, internal flagging process by USA Swimming, where the individual was subject to review if they ever decided to try to regain membership. However, Berkoff felt that being part of the Code of Conduct itself would give the jurisdiction a more prominent location within the rulebook.

The R-13 proposal expands the definition of what types of sexual abuse USA Swimming has jurisdiction over. Currently, the Safe Sport rules regarding Code of Conduct focus on adults abusing children. Safe Sport looked to add sexual abuse by a minor athlete against another minor athlete as a violation. Currently, the only way USA Swimming can enact punishment for peer-to-peer abuse is if the minor is arrested on a felony charge.

R-14 looks to add some more teeth to the Banned for Life list. Currently, there are no provisions to punish current USA Swimming members who help banned members find access to athlete members. This proposal makes it a code of conduct violation for doing so, and also forces banned members out of ownership roles in USA Swimming clubs.

In other decisions, , R-15, a proposal requesting that LSC Boards of Review be moved to the Zone level passed, with the changes taking place Jan. 1, 2015. R-9, a proposal looking to define the intent of Speedo Sectionals meets as stepping stones to National events and qualify swimmers for Junior Nationals, also passed with a single amendment allowing summer sectionals to span up to four days.

R-6, asking for the ability of a club on the border of an LSC to be able to host an event in a neighboring LSC failed. This led to R-7 being pulled from a vote as it was contingent on R-6 passing. R-17, requesting the house of delegates only come together every other year instead of annually, failed. Another house of delegates related vote, R-18, looking to change the allocation and number of delegates also failed.

A resolution looking to change convention dates from Wed-Sat to Sun-Wed failed. A final resolution asking for approval for an annual increase in dues from the standard $1 a year to $2 a year passed, meaning dues will increase $2 a year for the next 10 years.

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