In light of several well-publicized lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by USA Swimming coaches (46 are now permanently banned by the organization), USA Swimming has formally passed several measures at its recent House of Delegates meeting.
The measures approved at the meeting, held last September in Dallas, aim to educate the membership, strengthen the background check requirements and mandate reporting of all credible information on incidents of sexual abuse.
“We have been committed throughout this process, to doing the right thing, and taking actions that, first and foremost, will foster a safe and positive environment for our athletes.” said out-going USA Swimming President Jim Wood in a press statement.
Still, not everyone agrees the measures are enough.
“We are pleased that after years of neglect, the current leadership group for USA Swimming, albeit only under extreme media pressure, has finally implemented some rules and regulations to protect children from sex abuse. We remain highly pessimistic; however, that real and permanent change can be made,” said Ed Vasquez a spokesman for several of the attorneys representing alleged victims of abuse. “… The only thing that USA Swimming’s leadership has done is clear a lawn of weeds without pulling out the roots.”
Effective January 1, all non-athlete members must pass a criminal background screening (coaches have been require to submit to screenings since 2006). Also, any non-member that interacts with athletes must now become an official member, which means they’re required to undergo background screenings as well. All told, the decision represents at least 30,000 to 40,000 additional screenings, according to USA Swimming.
Additionally, all non-athlete members will be required to complete “Athlete Protection Education” as a condition of membership, and new policies adopted by the board in July have been formally added to the USA Swimming Code of Conduct.
Coaches (even those who are licensed massage therapists) are now prohibited from giving rubdowns or massages. Other formalized policies include: All massages must take place in a public place with another individual present; when only one athlete is traveling to an out of town competition, parents must provide written consent if the athlete is traveling alone with the coach; and all coaches are prohibited from sharing a hotel room or other accommodations with an athlete.