USA Swimming Passes Legislation Restricting Coach-Swimmer Relationships

by Carly Geehr 3

September 14th, 2013 Club, Lifestyle, National, News

According to former USA Swimming Vice President Mike Saltzstein, USA Swimming just passed rule 304.3 (C), which prevents coaches from having “romantic or sexual relationships” with their swimmers. No discussion of the new rule took place, and thus it passed unaltered from how it appears in this SwimSwam article from late August. This new rule comes after the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) threatened to pull funding from sporting governing bodies that did not pass this legislation.

Things get murky pretty quickly here, as the rule states that it applies to coaches “(i) having direct supervisory or evaluative control, or (ii) who are in a position of power and trust over the athlete or other participant.” This seems ripe for exception-making. Depending on how a team is structured, there could be a fleet of assistant or other coaches who may not have “direct” control over the athlete, or even be perceived as in a “position of power or trust,” but are still on deck and/or technically a swimmer’s coach. Lines will need to be drawn somewhere, and it will be interesting in the coming months to see how the implementation and oversight of this rule develop.

The rule further goes on to exempt intimate relationships that existed prior to the swimmer-coach relationship, or in cases “where it can be demonstrated that there is no imbalance of power.” Thus, several high-profile instances of coach-swimmer marriages already in existence would not be affected, regardless of when they happened. The rule takes effect today, so prior instances of this happening, including those involving leadership of USA Swimming at various levels, would not be affected by this rule

As discussed in the previous article on the subject, the starting date of a relationship other than a marriage is nearly impossible to prove. The rule defers specific definitions of what constitutes an “imbalance of power” to the USOC Athlete Protection Policy, which contains language identical to the USA Swimming rule and thus doesn’t provide much extra guidance.

Among other rules recently passed include one further enforcing the banned or permanently ineligible list. Specifically, it is now a violation of the code of conduct to aid one of these banned coaches in working with a member athlete or for them to own a club. This rule would not, however, prevent these banned individuals from receiving credentials to USA Swimming events, however, as happened at the Mesa Grand Prix in 2013.

All athlete protection rules that were in the proposals, which can be seen here, were passed. Among the most interesting of these rules was one that allows USA Swimming to permanently ban former members. USA Swimming spokesperson Karen Linhart says that this restriction was already in the rules, codified in Article 502 under Jurisdiction, but the legislation just “brought attention to it” by putting it specifically into the Code of Conduct.

To see the full list of rules being voted on this weekend by the House of Delegates, see this document.

Correction: a previous version of this article stated that such relationships were “banned”. However, the rule specifies that there are certain situations where they’re allowed, including preexisting relationships.

Leave a Reply

3 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
3 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

It seems to me that two consenting adults, under the laws of the United States, have every right to engage in an intimate relationship anywhere and at any time.


If legal age people want to get together than so be it. No rule will stop it because they’ll find a way to do it anyway.


It’s kind of like the rest of their rules. These rules are on the books to appease the USOC and only have teeth if they don’t like the accused rule breaker. If you kiss the right a**** you can pretty much get away with anything in USA Swimming.

About Carly Geehr

Carly burst onto the swimming scene in 1997 when she qualified for the Pan Pacific championships at the ripe old age of 12. She later earned a silver medal at the 1999 Pan American Games in the 800 free relay and competed on the World Cup circuit. A few shoulder and …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!