It has been a tough few weeks for the idea of athletic purity and American exceptionalism. Swimming and gymnastics, two of the most prominent sports under the umbrella of the United States Olympic Committee, are as corrupt and in many ways even more injurious than Olympic sports are in countries like Russia. Russian athletes were banned from competing under their country's flag at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics because of state-sponsored doping four years ago. It comes on the heels of victims testifying in sentencing statements about their molestation by one of the monsters of modern sports, former American Olympic women's gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. The alleged abuse in swimming began as early as pre-school classes with children as young as three and continued through the tiers of competition to cases of statutory rape by coaches with underage swimmers on national team trips. In the sport's sexual culture, said the Register's story by Scott Reid, coaches sometimes marry their best swimmers when they reach the age of sexual consent.
USA Gymnastics may not be the only Olympic organization that has a systemic problem with sexual abuse. Citing court documents and internal communications, the SCNG report says USA Swimming enabled hundreds of predators, most of whom were coaches, and allowed a culture of abuse where it was accepted for older coaches to have sexual relationships with underage athletes. Top USA Swimming executives, officials and coaches knew of multiple sexual predators in coaching positions for years and did nothing to stop it. At least coaches and officials have been arrested, charged or disciplined by USA Swimming for sexual assault or sexual misconduct against athletes under the age of Most of the coaches and officials on the flagged list were able to continue working in the swim world. Some officials were not banned from the sport even after they had been convicted of felonies. Over the years, USA Swimming has been quick to spend money to settle sexual abuse cases before they can hit the public radar.
When it comes to an apology, late is better than never. Better still is not having to apologize at all. I have been criticized in blogs, and most recently in the petition opposing International Swimming Hall of Fame induction, for not apologizing for not having done more to prevent sexual abuse by coaches. Wielgus and USA Swimming drew intense criticism at that time for their handling of child sexual abuse in the sport, including allegations of covering up complaints. Abuse occurs in all sports.
She alleges Sean Hutchison, who began coaching her at a swim club near Seattle, groomed her for sexual abuse when she was 13, started touching and kissing her when she was 16 and engaging in sexual activity with her when she was USA Swimming hired a private investigator to look into rumors of a relationship between the two in The organization said it closed the investigation without finding any misconduct after they and others denied the relationship.