USA Swimming has banned coach J. Michael Soderling (more commonly known as “Mike,” known to the courts as “James”) for life after being charged with, and pleading guilty, to massive drug charges.
According to court records from 2012 (see here), Soderling was one of 35 defendants in the case charged by a grand jury in 2012 with ‘conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and with conspiracy to maintain drug-involved premises in Kansas, Missouri, and California”. The group of defendants grew to over 40 this year
There was also 7 charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and one count of use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug transaction. The maximum sentence he faced was life in prison.
Note that 1,000 kilograms of marijuana is over a ton. That would be more than enough to fill a large SUV. The value of the entire drug ring was valued at $17 million, implying roughly four-times the amount of the 1,000 kilogram minimum set forward in the indictment.
Soldering plead guilty in January of 2013 to one count of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and marijuana, which carries a sentence recommendation of 10 years-to-life. He has a $17 million forfeiture judgment entered against him as part of the plea agreement, and hasn’t been sentenced yet because he his helping round up all of his assets that are subject to forfeiture.
His wife will go to trial on April 28th, 2014.
James Soderling was seen as a source of “boutique style marijuana,” which is typically higher-valued. The couple faced especially serious charges among the defendants as “a known high grade marijuana distributor and high grade marijuana broker”.
The couple was caught in the summer of 2012; when federal agents were searching a house they rented in Lawrence, Kansas, the two were accused of dumping a further 56 pounds of marijuana in a hotel room in Utah, which was later recovered by other agents.
Soderling was formerly a high-level swim coach and was the head coach of both the Topeka Swim Association and the Lawrence Aquahawks. He was also an assistant at the University of Kansas from 1995-1997, his alma mater; a Missouri Valley Team Zone Head Coach; and on the Missouri Valley Board of Directors as the meet procedures chairman.
The specific rules of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct cited in his ban are below:
CODE OF CONDUCT (2011) – SECTION 304.3.8
304.3.8 The sale or distribution of illegal drugs or the illegal sale or distribution of any substance listed on FINA’s recognized list of banned substances.
CODE OF CONDUCT (2011) – SECTION 304.3.17
304.3.17 Any other material and intentional act, conduct or omission not provided for above, which is detrimental to the image or reputation of USA Swimming, a LSC or the sport of swimming.