On November 21, after hearing evidence of Mitch Ivey’s sexual relationship with 16 year old Suzette Moran and other sexual relationships with teenage swimmers who he coached, the USA Swimming National Board of Review found by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Ivey violated Section 450.1 of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct. Based upon this ruling, Mr. Ivey received a permanent lifetime ban from membership in USA Swimming.
Ms. Moran did not participate in the hearing, but at our suggestion did speak with Susan Woessner, Safe Sport Director, in June of this year about her relationship with Mr. Ivey. Based upon that conversation and additional investigation, the hearing went forward last month. With the ban’s 30-day appeal period ending, I spoke with Ms. Moran about her reaction to the lifetime ban.
“Banning Mitch Ivey was the right thing to do,” Ms. Moran said. Ms. Moran told us earlier this year that her sexual relationship with Mr. Ivey was consensual and she knew what she was doing when she became involved with him. She now tells us that upon reflection and with teenage children of her own, “No matter how I felt about it, I was 16 and not old enough to make those decisions.”
After making her public statement this year, Ms. Moran learned that Mr. Ivey was “much more of a problem than she ever wanted to believe.” She had not been aware that after he was released from his coaching job at the University of Florida in 1993 that he began coaching an all girl high school team at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Florida. At this point in 1993, ESPN’s Outside the Lines had detailed Mr. Ivey’s sexual abuse of his young female swimmers based on interviews with these victims and/or their families. Even so, USA Swimming, high schools, swim clubs, and colleges continued to allow Mr. Ivey unfettered access to female teenage swimmers. Learning that Mr. Ivey continued to coach young women at that point fuels her anger at USA Swimming.
This anger intensifies when she reiterates her dismay at USA Swimming’s lack of effort in locating her in 1993 and 2011 given the ESPN episode and the swimming community’s common knowledge of her relationship with Mr. Ivey. When Ms. Moran called Ms. Woessner in June she raised this issue.
Ms. Moran finally asked the one question no one had answered to her satisfaction: “Why had no one from USA Swimming found her in 1993 or in 2011 during its first investigation of Mitch?” She tells us Ms. Woessner told her there were 11 Suzette Morans across the country and USA Swimming did not know which one she was. While that may have been the case in 2011, Ms. Woessner diligently pursued the investigation after speaking with Ms. Moran in June this year.
Mr. Ivey’s lifetime ban and Ms. Moran’s recognition that this outcome is the appropriate one even though a long time in coming has not diminished her anger over USA Swimming’s lack of earlier investigative efforts into Mr. Ivey. “USA Swimming should be apologizing for their lack of investigation about” her relationship with Mr. Ivey. She feels “USA Swimming should be embarrassed, apologetic, remorseful, but they are arrogant.”
Ms. Moran may never receive the reaction she would like from USA Swimming over its lack of pursuing a ban of Mr. Ivey in 1993 or in 2011 or in making a concerted effort to locate her. In this instance, the complaint and review process eventually did work and remove another sexually abusive USA Swimming coach from the pool deck. Currently there are almost 100 coaches on the permanently suspended or ineligible list.
And a lesson we can all take away from Ms. Moran is simply this – talk to your children about these types of abusive relationships and behavior that is inappropriate between a child and a coach (or any adult). While the mechanism is in place for removing sexually abusive coaches from coaching, we can be proactive and hopefully prevent such relationships from beginning. We provide our children with suits and snorkles and fins and nose clips to be successful in the water. We also can provide them with guidance and tools to be successful in avoiding inappropriate advances or overtures from their coaches or others outside the water.