On Monday, Suzette Moran issued a public statement detailing the consensual sexual relationship she had with coach Mitch Ivey beginning when she was 16 and he was 33. This story is not new to the swimming community.
In 1993, on Outside the Lines, ESPN detailed Mr. Ivey’s habitual sexual abuse of his underage club level swimmers. ESPN interviewed Ms. Moran who described her relationship with Mr. Ivey. In 1983, she was 16 and he was 33 when the sexual relationship began. They were engaged when she was 17, but Ms. Moran ended the engagement during her freshman year at UCLA. In this episode, ESPN did not reveal all of the details of Ms. Moran’s story.
We spoke with Ms. Moran today and she candidly filled in those details. In 1983, when she was 16 she swam at the San Ramon Valley Swim Club under Andy King. Mitch Ivey was not Ms. Moran’s coach at the time the relationship began. Ms. Moran wants us to understand that she pursued Mr. Ivey. She initiated the relationship. He did not coerce her or ask her not to tell anyone. In fact, they took no precautions. “Everyone knew, but looked the other way.” Ironically, Andy King “stood up to her and said, ‘you don’t know what you are doing, Suzette’.” That single admonishment was the extent of anyone’s efforts to end or prevent the affair.
But, Ms. Moran is adamant that she did know what she was doing. Seven months into the affair, she moved to Concord Pleasant Hill Swim Club where Mr. Ivey coached and continued their relationship. From the beginning, their affair was “fully consensual,” and she “never felt forced to do anything.” In fact, her parents were aware of the relationship and allowed it to continue with parameters. Ms. Moran admits that if her parents had not allowed her to continue her involvement with him, she probably would have run away and married him. But her mother wanted to keep her daughter close and the lines of communication open with the daughter she loved.
Ms. Moran holds herself completely accountable for her actions and does not see herself as a victim. She says she never felt she should report their sexual relationship. As she was discussing the affair, she admits she was a stubborn, mature 16-year-old, but now realizes that the other girls who had affairs with Mr. Ivey may not have been as stubborn or mature. Those affairs may not have been consensual. And, regardless of her maturity level and consent, Ms. Moran recognizes that a 33-year-old coach having sex with a 16-year-old swimmer is wrong and constitutes abuse.
For these reasons, Ms. Moran decided to speak publicly about her past. Even though a substantial amount of evidence shows that many in the swimming world, including USA Swimming, have known her story for some time.
According to ESPN reporting and numerous early 1990 newspaper articles, Mr. Ivey’s pattern of having sexual relationships with his underage swimmers was common knowledge. Interviews with University of Florida administrators made clear that Mr. Ivey’s reputation preceded him. Club coaches also were aware of Mr. Ivey’s alleged sexual abuse. Additionally, a University of Florida swimmer formally accused Mr. Ivey of verbal sexual abuse resulting in an investigation by the school. But it was not until ESPN aired its episode that the school fired Mr. Ivey.
After losing his position at Florida for sexual abuse of his former athletes, he continued coaching at the Trinity Preparatory School and Trinity Prep Aquatics in Winter Park, Florida.
Ms. Moran says it is disturbing to her that USA Swimming has not tried to contact her at any point over the years. “It is clear that they made no effort to locate me.” According to Ms. Moran, no one from USA Swimming contacted her in the 1990’s or during the 2011 investigation of Mr. Ivey.
While researching the Ivey piece in 1993, Bob Ley, the host of Outside the Lines, stated, “[i]t was all too easy to find cases alleging sexual abuse between minors and coaches and sexual misconduct.” While the ESPN researchers easily located Mr. Ivey’s victims in 1993, USA Swimming has stated that their investigation of Mr. Ivey in 2011 concluded that “there was not enough evidence to move forward with” a hearing, but “the case remains open.”
Ms. Moran now asks “Congress to step in and investigate USA Swimming.” Kelley Currin made this same request after Rick Curl’s sentencing hearing in May this year. They contend that USA Swimming allowed Mr. Ivey and Mr. Curl to continue coaching while knowing these men had sexual relationships with them when they were minors.
USA Swimming is now encouraging “any individuals with first-hand information about any inappropriate conduct to come forward and share their story directly with USA Swimming’s Director of Safe Sport” if an “inappropriate relationship with an athlete took place when Mr. Ivey was a coach member” of USA Swimming. Given the investigative resources of the Safe Sport office, maybe it is time for that office to contact the individual it now conclusively knows has this first-hand information.
Full unedited statements from Ms. Moran and her attorney, Robert Allard, plus USA Swimming, are below.
Suzette Moran’s victim statement:
“It has come to my attention that over the past few years USA Swimming has been investigating swim coaches for misconduct. After reading articles about various coaches, it appears that USA Swimming is having a difficult time understanding how to conduct comprehensive investigations. I was recently advised that they have cleared Mitch Ivey from any inappropriate actions. It seems that once again they have overlooked several pieces of evidence.
USA Swimming has never contacted me in regards to their investigation of Mitch Ivey. While I do not see myself as a victim, the fact remains that I started having a relationship with Mitch Ivey at 16 and it continued for several years. The relationship was consensual, and completely open to everyone in USA Swimming, family, and friends. It crossed the world of USA Swimming with the ESPN special that I appeared in back in the early 90’s.
The fact that USA Swimming closed their file without trying to contact me is disturbing. It is reminiscent of the Catholic Church. I am very easily located via Facebook, Linkedin, Spokeo, Classmates, and my high school. ESPN found me through the UCLA Athletic Department. It is clear that they made no effort to locate me.
It saddens me that after all of the controversy, Mitch has made the choice to continue to coach, and a team has hired him. It concerns me that the entity who should be investigating and protecting swimmers from predators is still not doing their job, even after such coaches as Andy King and Rick Curl have been incarcerated.
I am publicly asking for Congress to step in and investigate USA Swimming.”
Robert Allard’s statement:
“the leadership at USA Swimming continues to demonstrate that is is utterly incapable of resolving addressing the rampant sexual abuse issue within its ranks.” Allard pointed to a 2010 email from USA Swimming’s Technical Vice President David Berkoff which identifies Ivey and Moran by name as an example of an improper sexual relationship between a coach and his minor swimmer.
“There is absolutely no excuse for USA Swimming to not interview Ms. Moran. We located her with little effort. In our view, USA Swimming’s leadership doesn’t want to know the truth because it doesn’t care about the truth. These leaders would rather boast about what have proven to us to be worthless rules and 1-800 numbers that they have developed and falsely hold themselves out as champions of sexual abuse victims. These leaders have repeatedly failed the sexual misconduct test and need to remove themselves from office. If they don’t voluntarily resign, Congress should intervene and force them to. This simply has gone on for way too long.”
USA Swimming’s response statement:
USA Swimming has never received a formal complaint with first-hand knowledge of an inappropriate relationship related to former coach member Mitch Ivey, who has not been a member of USA Swimming since 2006. Still, based on information shared with USA Swimming about Mr. Ivey, an investigation was conducted in 2011. The investigation included interviews with 11 individuals, including former Ivey athletes, coach colleagues, and university administrators. At that time, there was not enough evidence to move forward with a National Board of Review hearing but the case remains open.
If an inappropriate relationship with an athlete took place when Mr. Ivey was a coach member of the organization, USA Swimming would encourage any individuals with first-hand information about any inappropriate conduct to come forward and share their story directly with USA Swimming’s Director of Safe Sport. As part of USA Swimming’s commitment to its membership, we strongly encourage anyone with information about a possible Code of Conduct violation to contact us so we can further investigate the claims. The success of our Safe Sport program relies on all of our members, past and present, working with us and being diligent about the safety of our athletes.