After a lawsuit filed Friday accused the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) of covering up allegations of abuse against two-time Paralympic swimmer Robert Griswold, the USOPC placed two staff members on administrative leave.
The USOPC did not specify which two staff members were placed on leave. There are only three staff members listed on the U.S. Paralympics Swimming website: director Erin Popovich, associate director Nathan Manley, and coach George Leatherman.
In a statement on Friday evening, the USOPC broke its silence and said they have “stopped the work of several contractors with U.S. Paralympics Swimming.”
“The allegations brought forth by the complaint filed today are extremely concerning and we take them very seriously,” the USOPC said in a statement on Friday. “We’ve made the decision to place two staff members on administrative leave and have also stopped the work of several contractors with U.S. Paralympics Swimming. We’re also continuing our investigation of the allegations to help us determine the facts, and we are committed to taking appropriate action.”
The lawsuit claims that both the USOPC and the U.S. Center for SafeSport (which was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit) ignored previous allegations of abuse when assigning Griswold as the “de-facto chaperone” of a teammate with intellectual impairment.
“Defendants USOPC and SafeSport had actual knowledge of multiple prior instances, or at minimum credible allegations, of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse perpetrated by Griswold, yet turned a blind eye and/or conspired to cover-up such allegations, on each occasion,” the lawsuit says.
Griswold roomed with the accuser — who was born with autism and “has the mental capacity of a 5-year-old” — at the Tokyo Paralympics as well as the team’s training base in Colorado Springs. Griswold allegedly groomed and abused his teammate for more than a year, raping him so severely that surgery was required.
“In addition to placing Griswold in Plaintiff’s bedroom, USOPC assigned Griswold to be a supervisor of Plaintiff, despite the fact that Griswold was a peer team member on the swim team rather than an adult supervisor and had no training or qualifications to serve as a supervisor,” the lawsuit says. “Remarkably, Defendant USOPC and Defendant U.S. Center for SafeSport (“SafeSport”) allowed Griswold to supervise and share a bedroom with Plaintiff without any oversight, despite the fact that USOPC and SafeSport had received reports that Griswold was sexually assaulting other teammates. Defendant USOPC’s failures — highlighted by its decision to allow Plaintiff to share a room and shower with Defendant Griswold without supervision, are especially troubling considering the extent of Plaintiff’s disabilities…”
The lawsuit also alleges that “upon information and belief, USOPC and SafeSport’s actions to insulate Griswold and further victimize Plaintiff were due in large part to the fact that Griswold was a premier swimmer, and because Griswold’s family was deeply embedded with leaders throughout the U.S. Paralympic swimming community.”
“Importantly, this is not the first time Defendant USOPC has withheld allegations of abuse; conspired with its affiliated entities (including Defendant SafeSport) to cover-up allegations of abuse; failed to properly supervise its own officers, directors, coaches, and athletes; or allowed physical, verbal, and/or sexual abuse to occur under its nose,” the lawsuit added, citing an ESPN article from 2020. “Many such instances have occurred at the OPTC.”
The U.S. Center for SafeSport released this statement on Friday: “The Center does not comment on matters to protect the integrity of its investigative process.”
A lawyer representing Griswold told SwimSwam last month that he “vehemently denies any wrongdoing.”
Griswold has not been arrested or charged with a crime as of publication.