On the heels of a civil lawsuit that alleges widespread
sexual abuse among swim coaches and the resulting media
storm, USA Swimming has begun implementing closely watched
plans to address the issue.
“While it is difficult to be in the spotlight
on such a tragic issue, we hope that by facing the issue
head-on and taking meaningful action to address it, that we
can serve as a leader among youth organizations,”
said Jamie Fabos Olsen, USA Swimming communications
director, via email.
But critics wonder whether the organization is doing
In the midst it all, at least one additional lawsuit has
been filed (similar to the first) – alleging that
former Kansas City Dolphins swim coach Robert Mirande
sexually abused one of his young team members.
Within weeks following the California lawsuit, filed by
Attorney Robert Allard in Santa Clara Superior Court, USA
Swimming released a “7-Point Action Plan for a
Safe and Positive Sport Environment.”
In implementing some of these items, the organization
has hired nationally recognized expert Barry Nadell to
review its background-screening program; approved creation
of a Special Committee on Athlete Protection; and acted to
begin establishing a counseling service and reporting
Dave Salo has been following the developments. As
general manager of Club Irvine Novaquatics, and head coach
of University of Southern California Men’s and
Women’s Swimming and Diving he says while USA
Swimming can provide background screenings and guidelines,
in the end protecting young swimmers is in the hands of
parents and those at individual clubs.
“If somebody’s [abusing a swimmer] and
it’s the first time, no background check is going
to catch that,” says Salo. He cautions that
parents have to be attentive and clubs have to enforce
strict guidelines among staff as to what contact is
Those involved in the lawsuits say USA Swimming
hasn’t gone far enough in its response.
“We firmly believe that USA Swimming has not taken
the necessary steps to stop abuse,” said Ed
Vasquez, spokesman for Attorney Robert Allard.
“The changes promoted two weeks ago are a smoke
screen. They are not real and they will not do anything to
stop abuse.” Vasquez also represents Attorneys
Lynn Johnson, representing the plaintiff in the Kansas City
suit, and Jonathan Little, who represents Brooke Taflinger,
an Indiana swimmer who’s coach plead guilty to
In addition to Vasquez, Mike Saltzstein, a former USA
Swimming vice president and Ken Stopkotte, 2009-10 Indiana
High School Swimming Coach of the Year, have criticized the
organization for not acting quickly or decisively enough to
prevent abuses. Stopkotte appeared on an ESPN report.