Chuck Wielgus withdrew his name from consideration for induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame

Wielgus has been the executive director of USA Swimming for 17 years

Jordan KobritzChalk this one up to the power of the people, with an assist from the media.

Days after a petition signed by 19 women who had been sexually abused by their swim coaches was made public, USA Swimming and the International Swimming Hall of Fame announced that USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus withdrew his name from consideration for induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. At the time of the withdrawal, the petition had been signed by more than 700 sympathizers. Greg Louganis, one of this country’s most beloved Olympic swimmers, had also tweeted out his support for the movement to rescind Wielgus’ nomination to the Hall.

Wielgus has been the executive director of USA Swimming for 17 years. It should be noted that none of the petitioners claimed to have been abused by Wielgus. In fact, their abuse occurred prior to his tenure as executive director. However, they accused Wielgus of both ignoring and covering up complaints of sexual abuse – including lying under oath – which allowed such conduct to continue against many other unsuspecting girls and young women.

The petition was authored by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, senior director of advocacy at the Women’s Sports Foundation. A former Olympic swimmer who says she was never abused, Hogshead-Makar meticulously drafted the petition befitting the attorney that she is. Along with specific allegations of inaction and obfuscation, the petition relies on court documents that include Wielgus’ own testimony to support the claims of the 19 original signatories.

Among the many alarming accusations in the petition are these. Wielgus “covered up two separate sexual misconduct complaints against coach Andy King,” who is currently serving a 40-year sentence for sexually abusing more than a dozen young swimmers. Another claim is that even though Wielgus knew that Rick Curl, one of USA Swimming’s coaches, had molested swimmer Kelly Davies Currin beginning when she was 13, Wielgus allowed Curl to continue coaching young swimmers. In 2013, Curl was sentenced to seven years in prison for sexual abuse.

The joint announcement that Wielgus had succumbed to public pressure was a complete about face from the statement released by USA Swimming in response to the petition only a week earlier. At that time, USA Swimming called many of the allegations made in the petition “untrue” and “intentionally misleading.” Joined by a number of its present and former executives, USA Swimming adamantly refuted the claims in the petition and expressed support for Wielgus.

“Each of us has worked directly with Chuck Wielgus over the past 17 years and we wholeheartedly stand behind him and his outstanding accomplishments,” the statement read. “His integrity and leadership have been inspirational to us, and we have seen first-hand his positive impact on USA Swimming’s 400,000 members that include athletes, parents, volunteers, coaches and staff.”

The statement went on to say, “Without hesitation, we attest that Chuck is a man of impeccable character who consistently exhibits a value system steeped in ethics and personal accountability. A stalwart leader in the sport of swimming and amateur athletics, he possesses a history of honesty, compassion and success that merits his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.”

Words and phrases such as ‘impeccable character,’ ‘a value system steeped in ethics and personal accountability,’ ‘a stalwart leader’ and possessing ‘honesty’ and ‘compassion’ would hardly seem to apply to Chuck Wielgus. When someone is aware of a crime and harbors the perpetrator, they can be prosecuted under the criminal justice system as an accessory. In this case, not only was Wielgus aware of the abuse, in many instances he went to extraordinary lengths to cover it up.

Whether it’s the Catholic Church, administrators at Penn State, or the so-called leadership at USA Swimming, regardless if the victims are young girls or boys, or if the abuse occurs in church, during sports or at home, individuals who ignore allegations of sexual abuse, or worse, engage in cover ups to protect sexual predators, should be held accountable to the same extent as the perpetrators.

Sexual predators destroy our most valuable resource, our children. There is no more despicable crime in our society than the abuse of children. Rather than being inducted into the Hall of Fame, those who enable such reprehensible conduct should be banished to the Hall of Shame for eternity.

Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is a Professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com Jordan can be reached at jordan.kobritz@cortland.edu.

 

© Copyright 2014 Tanna Bk, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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