After Lawsuit Alleging “Cover-Up,” USOPC Places 2 Staff Members on Administrative Leave

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.”

The 63-page civil complaint is available to read in full here.

Griswold has not been arrested or charged with a crime as of publication.

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jdsmitty1
2 months ago

No amount of punishment will do justice to the survivors of Griswold’s abuse. My heart hurts for them, and I wish nothing but healing and peace.

Steve Nolan
2 months ago

Getting rid of staff members involved is necessary, but is it really going to solve anything? Is the problem they just haven’t found the right, moral and upstanding people to work these roles, or is it that the structures in place keep leading to these exact outcomes?

SafeSport was supposed to stop this sort of thing, right? So maybe it’s the inadequate piece. Maybe it’s a bit more institutional, because it just keeps happening across a variety of sports.

MIKE IN DALLAS
2 months ago

I just went thru ALL 63 pages of the civil complaint – OMG!
Obviously, this is one side of the story, but the accumulation of evidence, witnesses, and medical findings is, to put it mildly, overwhelming. I can’t see how this “civil complaint” does not also demand criminal charges at some point. Innocent until proven guilty, I know. But if this goes to trial with a jury, there is going to be so much horror in the courtroom, I’ll be glad not to have to listen to it all.
Outrage is not too strong of a term.

Old one
Reply to  MIKE IN DALLAS
2 months ago

Mike in Dallas, do you know where to read this civil complaint? I’ve looked on the net to no avail….

Jimmy Saffron
2 months ago

Gris not arrested nor charged…He is innocent

Walter
Reply to  Jimmy Saffron
2 months ago

And OJ is innocent as well.

Civil Link
Reply to  Jimmy Saffron
2 months ago

How long does it take for criminal charges to be filed and an arrest to occur? It’s been about 2-3 months already hasn’t it?

Bruh
2 months ago

“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“

Lock all they asses up

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Bruh
2 months ago

Wonder if there’s a similar SafeSport situation going on with the senior national team for USA Swimming. Inquiring minds want to know!

Maverick
Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 months ago

Elaborate!

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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