Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Updated: July 28, 6:20 PM ET
USA Swimming has second list
USA Swimming acknowledged to The Associated Press on Tuesday that it has a second list of people who are under suspicion for unscrupulous behavior, having already banned 46 coaches and officials for life, mostly for sexual misconduct.
The board met in Newark, N.J., to sign off on measures that will be voted on at the national convention in September, another step in its efforts to cope with numerous allegations of coaches abusing underage athletes. They included a new athlete protection policy, expanded background checks and a requirement that all adults who interact with swimmers become members of the organization.
USA Swimming president Jim Wood also told the AP there's a second list of people who've been "flagged" for alleged misconduct against swimmers but haven't faced any disciplinary action because they aren't current members. That will change -- the board voted Tuesday to take those cases before the National Board of Review.
Those who decline to attend an NBOR hearing or lose their case will be added to the list of banned officials that was released last month, Wood said. He did not know how many people were on the flagged list, which was disclosed publicly for the first time.
USA Swimming didn't respond to an additional request for the number of people on the list.
"Some of them were added recently. Some have been there for a period of time," Wood said. "They were nonmembers of the organization that we heard things about and we put them on a list to make sure if they ever tried to become a USA Swimming coach, they would be flagged here."
At least one is a former member coach who quit the organization after being confronted with allegations of statutory rape. Dave Goble, secretary of the group's Michigan chapter, said he recently checked on the ex-coach's status with USA Swimming and was told he had not been banned for life but was on the flagged list.
"There are many accusations in his background," Goble told the AP. "In my estimation, he should not be dealing with children."
Mike Saltzstein, a former vice president at USA Swimming and most prominent critic inside the sport, said the biggest problem with the flagged list is that no one is quite sure what a coach has to do to get on it. For instance, his own inquiries showed that it didn't include Randy Nack, a former Southern California high school coach who went to jail nearly two years ago for admittedly having sex with two underage female students.
"Why has this list been secret?" Saltzstein asked.
The most prominent name on the banned list is former national team director Everett Uchiyama, who quit in 2006 after being accused of having a decade-long relationship with a swimmer that began when she was 14. He never faced criminal charges and turned up less than a year later as the aquatics director at the Country Club of Colorado, only about five miles from USA Swimming's headquarters in Colorado Springs.
Uchiyama hastily resigned from the club after the banned list was published. He landed the job with a recommendation by Pat Hogan, who leads USA Swimming's club development.
There are at least four ongoing lawsuits against the governing body, contending it has covered up wrongdoing and allowed a culture of abuse to exist in the coaching ranks.
Ed Vazquez, a spokesman for attorneys in several of those cases, said he was surprised to learn of the second list and reiterated his belief that no meaningful changes will occur until the current leadership is replaced.
"This list raises lots of questions," Vazquez said. "How long have they known about the individuals on the list? Did they investigate them? Did they notify law enforcement if they committed any kind of crime?"
Wood said the organization is moving forward with programs that will ensure a safer environment for young swimmers coming out of the national convention in Dallas. They were designed with assistance from the Child Welfare League of America and other outside experts.
The new athlete protection policy prohibits coaches from giving rubdowns to swimmers -- even if licensed in massage therapy -- and requires they have the permission of a parent or guardian before they can visit a swimmer's home. On the road, coaches would be barred from sharing a room with athletes regardless of gender (unless it's their own child) or traveling alone with an athlete without a parent's written permission.
Mandatory background checks that had applied only to coaches would expand to include all non-athlete members of USA Swimming, including managers and chaperones. Also, USA Swimming would be required to report any accusation of sexual misconduct involving a minor to law enforcement, and all member clubs would have to complete a series of pre-employment screenings before hiring any coaches or officials.
The board also approved a set of recommendations for its member clubs that go into effect immediately, such as: at least two adults should attend any practice or swim-related function; one-on-one interaction between a coach and athlete should be done in an open setting; coaches should avoid sexual encounters with a former athlete for at least two years after their professional relationship ends, and even then only under "the most unusual circumstances."
"People need to understand that our goal from the very beginning of this was to do the right thing for athletes," Wood said. "This is a major step, but it is only the first step. I think folks will look at this and realize we did real due diligence and a lot of thought went into this."
But Saltzstein complained there was no real chance to discuss the measures before they were voted on at a board meeting that lasted a few hours.
"It's more of the same people doing the same things and expecting a different reaction or different result," he told the AP in a telephone interview late Tuesday.
Saltzstein said there are already criminal laws covering some of the proposed rules, such as a prohibition on audio or video taping inside a locker room, changing area or restroom. He also noted that while the national governing body would have to report any accusations to law enforcement, there was no such reporting mandate at the local level.
"You have to make sure the professionals -- the coaches -- are responsible and held to the same standards as teachers, as members of the clergy, as members of the medical profession, as day care providers and those who run summer camps," he said.
Wood said some of Saltzstein's recommendations were included and maintained there was no attempt to cram through a hastily considered plan.
"The board meeting has been scheduled for quite a while," Wood said. "A number of people who are not part of the board attended the meeting and sat in on the discussions. I'm sorry Mike feels that way."