USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey is being investigated by the U.S. Government amidst allegations that he, as well as his predecessor, the late Chuck Wielgus, were aware of 19 separate complaints of coaches engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with the young swimmers, and ignoring them. The complaints, dating back to 2014, have been all but forgotten, and the U.S. wants answers.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey is Being Investigated By The Government
Hinchey received a letter dated January 26, 2018 from the United States Congress. A committee has been formed to investigate USA Swimmings handlings of 19 complaints submitted by swimmers alleging sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches.
The letter also references the “abhorrent abuse” suffered by the members of the members of the USA Gymnastics team, and seeks to ensure that USA Swimming has proper systems in place to protect its athletes from such mistreatment.
What follows is a series of three detailed questions requesting specific information about the complaints lodged in 2014, who know about them and how they were handled.
2. The Late, Former Swimming CEO Chuck Wielgus May Have Known Extremely Disturbing Complaints by Athletes
“Former executive director Chuck Wielgus, in particular, was criticized for failing to investigate abuse complaints against a coach who would later plead guilty to 20 counts of child molestation. Wielgus, who died last year, apologized for his handling of sexual abuse complaints years later,” reports USA Today.
Wielgus first addressed the rumors of sexual abuse complaints in 2010, saying that “he had nothing to be sorry for,” as ESPN reports.
In 2014, he finally went on to issue an apology. “He went on to write: “Going back in time, I wish I knew long before 2010 what I know today. I wish my eyes had been more open to the individual stories of the horrors of sexual abuse. I wish I had known more so perhaps I could have done more,” ESPN continues.
“I cannot undo the past. I’m sorry, so very sorry.”
The USA Swimming Rulebook is very clear on the proper policies and procedures, starting on page 96:
“304.3 The following shall be considered violations of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct:
. . .
.5 Violation of any of the Sexual Misconduct Reporting Requirements set forth in Article 306 or
the Prohibitions Against Retaliation for Good Faith Reporting of Abuse set forth in Article 307.
2017 Rules & Regulations 97
.6 Conviction of, imposition of a deferred sentence for, or any plea of guilty or no contest at
any time, past or present, or the existence of any pending charges, for (i) any felony, (ii) any
offense involving use, possession, distribution or intent to distribute illegal drugs or substances,
(iii) any crime involving sexual misconduct, or (iv) any criminal offense against a
.7 A Any inappropriate sexual conduct or advance, or other inappropriate oral, written,
visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature at any time, past or present, directed
towards an athlete or any person under the age of eighteen (18) by (i) a coach member
or other non-athlete member, or (ii) any other adult participating in any capacity whatsoever
in the activities of USA Swimming (whether such adult is a member or not).
B Any act of sexual harassment, including without limitation unwelcome sexual advances,
requests for sexual favors, and other inappropriate oral, written, visual, or physical conduct
of a sexual nature in connection with or incidental to a USA Swimming-related
activity by any person participating in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming
(whether such person is a member or not) directed toward any member or other person
participating in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming.
C A romantic or sexual relationship, even if it is a consensual relationship between adults,
which began during the swimming relationship, between athletes and those individuals
(i) having direct supervisory or evaluative control, or (ii) who are in a position of power
and trust over the athlete. Except in circumstances where no imbalance of power
exists, coaches have this direct supervisory or evaluative control and are in a position
of power and trust over those athletes they coach. The prohibition on romantic or sexual
relationships does not include those relationships where it can be demonstrated
that there is no imbalance of power. For example, this prohibition does not apply to a
relationship between two spouses or life partners which existed prior to the swimming
relationship. For factors that may be relevant to determining whether an imbalance of
power exists, consult the USOC’s Safe Sport Policies at http://www.teamusa.org/Footer/
ATHLETE PROTECTION POLICIES
The following policies related to Athlete Protection are mandatory components of the USA Swimming
Code of Conduct:
305.1 Inappropriate touching between an athlete and an adult non-athlete member or Participating
Non-Member (as defined in 401.1) is prohibited, including, but not limited to, excessive
touching, hugging, kissing, sexually oriented behavior, sexually stimulating or otherwise inappropriate
games, and having an athlete sit on a non-family member adult’s lap.
305.2 Any rubdown or massage performed on an athlete by any adult member or Participating
Non-Member, excluding the spouse, parent, guardian, sibling, or personal assistant of such athlete,
is prohibited unless such adult is a licensed massage therapist or other certified professional.
Any rubdown or massage performed at a swim venue by a licensed professional must be
conducted in open/public locations and must never be done with only the athlete and licensed
massage therapist in the room. Even if a coach is a licensed massage therapist, the coach shall
not perform a rubdown or massage of an athlete under any circumstances.”
3. A Bipartisan Committee Has Been Formed Specifically for Investigative Purposes
Of course, the committee stated on its site that it will continue to investigate sexual misconduct concerning USA Gymnastics. However, USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming are not the only sports which are being scrutinized.
“WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH), #SubDCCP Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS), and #SubOversight Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent letters today to USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Michigan State University, USA Swimming, and USA Taekwondo regarding sexual abuse within organized sports,” explained the committee.
“Two-time Olympic taekwondo champion Steven Lopez and his older brother Jean, who is his coach, were allowed to go to the Rio Olympics in 2016 despite being under investigation for sexual misconduct for more than two years. USA TODAY Sports found that USA Taekwondo never held hearings on complaints against either brother, even though its bylaws require the ethics committee “to ensure that all complaints are heard in a timely, fair and impartial manner. But the investigating attorney, Donald Alperstein, had enough concern that he shared information with the FBI and alerted police in the Lopezes’ hometown of Sugar Land, Texas,” reported USA Today.
4. Dr. Larry Nassar is A Suspect in The Investigation
The letters follow the recent sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar for his abuse of more than 150 women and girls, as well as last year’s reports of sexual misconduct allegations in the Taekwondo community, and the 2014 allegations of sexual abuse from 19 former U.S. swimmers.
“The abhorrent abuses associated with Dr. Nassar’s case and the allegations by U.S. Taekwondo athletics and U.S. swimmers are disgusting and outrageous, and raise serious concerns about protecting athletes from abuse and mistreatment in organized sports. These organizations must have mechanisms in place to ensure complete oversight and prevent such abuses from occurring. As we move forward in gathering the facts, this committee intends to hold a hearing in order to investigate these critical issues further,” said Chairman Walden.
In their letter to USA Gymnastics, the members wrote: “The abhorrent abuses associated with this case are outrageous, and raise serious concerns about your organization’s ability to oversee your sport and protect your athletes from abuse and mistreatment. Accordingly, the Committee is seeking information from USA Gymnastics because of the role it plays in overseeing gymnastics and protecting all of its athletes.”
5. There Are Reports of Sexual Misconduct Dating Back to the 90s
“One coach, Brian Hindson of Kokomo, IN, secretly taped teenage girls he coached in two high school pool locker rooms, one in which he directed girls to a “special” shower room where he had a hidden camera inside a locker,” reports ABC News.
Of course, this article refers to a high school coach, not an Olympic one. But still, it raises the issue of vulnerability. From high school swimmers to Olympic athletes, how do we protect vulnerable young athletes? From preteens to high schoolers to young adult woman, it seems that no one is safe.
The following is a letter that addresses inappropriate sexual behavior (specifically, this letter refers to gymnastics, but it is significant nonetheless), back in the 90s.