At Least 20 Banned Coaches Are Instructing Children, Report Finds

Numerous coaches who have been banned from Olympic-affiliated sports are currently coaching youth sports in some capacity, according to an NBC News report.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport, implemented in 2018 by Congress and the U.S. Olympic Committee, has banned hundreds of coaches from participating in Olympic events or activities, but as NBC News investigated, there aren’t the same safeguards in place to protect kids participating in youth sports from the same coaches.

An analysis from NBC News found that at least 10 who have been criminally charged with sexual misconduct and disciplined by SafeSport appear to be coaching or working with minors. Another 10 are still coaching or working with minors after being banned as a result of an investigation done by either SafeSport or an Olympic governing body, such as USA Swimming. The analysis also found five more who had trained kids after being banned but no longer appear to be doing so.

This illustrates the vulnerability of the estimated 45 million children who participate in youth sports in the U.S., experts say.

“If someone has a history of harming someone within the context of sport, they should not be continuing that role,” David Lee, the director of research and evaluation at Raliance, an organization dedicated to ending sexual violence, told NBC News.

“We want to create systems to be able to ensure that people are safe from harm, and we need to be able to prevent those people from continuing doing that.”

While many states require schools to conduct extensive background checks for incoming teachers and instructors, the same protocols aren’t in place for youth coaches outside of schools. This would include things like little leagues, club teams and independent studios, which don’t fall under SafeSport jurisdiction.

“We need some way to better police sports,” said Elizabeth Letourneau, the director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“It is kind of unfortunate that we have to have sort of bespoke strategies, like this group polices Olympic sports and this group polices public education.”

The NBC News report outlines the people who were banned by SafeSport but still appear to be coaching or working with children, which you can find below:

  • James Feltus
  • Jimmie Baxley
  • Thomas Navarro
  • Robert Barletta
  • Ernest Bolen
  • Michael Strickland
  • Heather Adams
  • Anthony DeSilva
  • Charlie Mercado
  • Peter Kim

Read more on each of them here.

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1 year ago

Great job USAS. Just say they are banned with no back up or oversight. Proving again that talk is cheap.

1 year ago

I have heard rumors that banned swim coach Joe Bernal still continues to be a “consultant” of some sort for his old swim club Gator Swim Club in MA. He fled the state and was believed to have left the country to avoid prosecution, but he has resurfaced in Florida, and continues to interact with the team publicly on IG with current swimmers.

I know he is likely no longer in a direct “coaching” role with swimmers, but if NE Swimming or other clubs gave an ounce of care, they’d ask USA Swimming to look into this.

1 year ago

As a coach of 15 years who (like many others) is as by the book as I can possibly be and has to fight tooth and nail sometimes for work and private swim clients this really chaps my ass to see these scam artists still working with kids and selling themselves as “experts with kids”. Yeah, no kidding you’re an expert with kids…smh. The entire team’s hiring them should be sanctioned, fined and disbanded…there…now nobody can work with kids. And the coaches who hire them should be placed on the list for looking the other way.

daeleb cressel
1 year ago

Put these mfs in the bingo book

1 year ago

Unfortunately there are so many youth sports and activities that can operate “outside” of their NGB’s/USOPC where SafeSport has no reach…. wonder if this report puts a spotlight on these people, makes those families aware, and will force these creeps back under a rock somewhere?

Last edited 1 year ago by KEVINM
Ugly IS my alibi
1 year ago

Guy from my university team is banned and a sex offender. His LinkedIn plays up his expertise in child and development psychology. F ed upto say but some really want to work with with kids and it’s a never ending battle to fight them and to know who is with your children

Jacob Whittle 46.90 in Paris
Reply to  Ugly IS my alibi
1 year ago

Say his name

Boxall's Railing
Reply to  Jacob Whittle 46.90 in Paris
1 year ago

You’re…you’re Heisenberg..

DP Spellman
1 year ago

It is quite disheartening when organizations outside of our NGBs are not proactive on screening and background checks with many of those individuals on the banned list.
I’m proud we have the banned list, I’m proud to have helped put people on that list, and have been part of the creation of the banned list. As the list grows we need organizations to be more vigilant about checking up on the names before hiring people to conduct any service or training outside of USA-Swimming sanctioned workouts. It is our responsibility to help aid those organizations should we notice any banned coaches popping up poolside in our LSCs.

Coach Tom
Reply to  DP Spellman
1 year ago

Martial arts like taekwondo are a lot different and, I would imagine, much harder to police than swimming. A banned coach who tries to start up a rec team or lesson program somewhere else will quickly be found out, and pressure will be put on the host facility to have them removed. While building your own competition pool and running lessons/starting a rec team out of it is theoretically possible, I doubt the average banned coach has the financial resources for such an undertaking.

In martial arts, a banned coach can easily just rent out space in a minimall to open a new dojo…and the property management company isn’t going to care if he’s on a Safesport list as long… Read more »

Big Mac #1
1 year ago


About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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