Dagny Knutson suing her former lawyer over 2011 agreement with USA Swimming

Former American record-holder Dagny Knutson has filed a lawsuit against Richard Foster, her former lawyer who was also formerly president of USA Water Polo.

Knutson filed the suit in California earlier this week, the LA Register reports.

Knutson was an exciting North Dakota youngster who looked like the future of USA Swimming on the women’s side back in the late 2000s. She won a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships as a member of the 4×200 free relay along with Katie Hoff, Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt.

Knutson’s career was cut short after a lengthy battle with an eating disorder (Knutson talks about that in this 2012 interview) along with several major changes in her training situation that included forgoing a scholarship to turn pro early.

Knutson first planned to leave Minot, ND to head to Auburn for a collegiate career. But when coach Paul Yetter left that school, Knutson wound up rescinding her commitment and turning pro. She moved out to California with USA Swimming’s Center of Excellence Program in Fullerton, a professional group that had a strong, but very brief, run under the Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team (FAST) banner.

According to the LA Register, Knutson was convinced to move to Fullerton by then-USA Swimming national team director Mark Schubert, with USA Swimming agreeing to pay for Knutson’s rent, utilities and travel costs for meets. But just a few months after Knutson arrived, the professional group at FAST fell apart under a storm of rumors and accusations, Schubert was replaced as national team director, and the deal between Knutson and USA Swimming was never fulfilled.

Knutson’s current lawsuit comes from this period. Foster came in to represent Knutson legally as she fought to get USA Swimming to live up to the agreement she’d signed with Schubert.

Knutson now alleges that Foster didn’t admit to her his own conflict of interest in the matter – Foster, the former USA Water Polo president, had many ties both personal and professional with USA Swimming. He’d also represented Schubert in the past.

Foster claims that he did disclose his connections to USA Swimming, telling Knutson “Look, I have a good relationship with USA Swimming. I think I can help you. If this gets into litigation you have to find somebody else because I’ve represented Mark in the past,” (quote as reported in the LA Register).

Ultimately, Foster was able to get Schubert to confirm that a deal was made between he and Knutson. But with a new national team director in charge, Foster negotiated a new deal for Knutson, a deal the swimmer now says is much worse than the original agreement.

The new deal was tied heavily to her world rank, the LA Register reports, and the eating disorder plus a bout with depression had a major effect on her swimming over the next few years, resulting in USA Swimming terminating the new deal.

Knutson has popped up here and there since the whole ordeal. Last December, we reported that Grand Canyon University was offering Knutson a scholarship to finish her schooling there while helping the team as a student manager. Because she went pro, Knutson is no longer eligible to compete in the NCAA.

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9 years ago

Just because you sue someone does not mean you regret your past or not it is just a business calculation that you are owed money. For example, I have a suit pending against some business associates but have no emotional connection to it. I don’t regret or resent doing the business but I am simply owed something in my opinion. Dagny’s situation is the same. Hopefully she can take care of her business and the courts rule in her favor, but courts don’t always do what is right. You can get more screwed in court than you can in life, which is why you need to emotionally detach from these situations and let them play out. Most of the time… Read more »

Legal limits
9 years ago

I believe you will find that there are legal reasons why Miss Knutson cannot file suit against USA Swimming, or Mr Schubert, but still can seek a judgement against her attorney.

9 years ago

I feel awful for Ms. Knutson because she was sold a bill of goods. Nevertheless, if her attorney had a conflict of interest he must be called to task. If there was a conflict of interest, and it can be shown that the attorney did not act in Ms. Knutson’s best interest, DK can and should sue USA Swimming and her attorney.

Ultimately though, her eating disorder would have surfaced and torpedoed her career, but the added stress of everything going wrong all at once, just sped it up.

Oh, and are two bigger tools in USA Swimming than Wieglus and Schubert?

9 years ago

USA Swimming is really a poor, poor organization. I wish she’d sue them and Chuck Wieglus who is a complete failure. I hate that our only choice in club swimming is to pay them and Wieglus who is an overpaid fool. And the price goes up every year for the forseeable future. And all this and they can’t live us to their agreement. They suck and i wish someone like Phelps or Lochte had the balls to say so. What do they have to lose. C’mon guys, speak up for Dagny!

Gina Rhinestone
9 years ago

I looked at the Auburn results list for the years Dagny would have been there. They seemed to do ok so obviously they got on with it.

Other the that she could have stayed at home with her unheralded $4 per hour coach & enrolled in the closest Engineering school & gone on to be a fracking success.

Her Parents might be thinking – will this ever end? They too suffered losses & got on with it . It does not help living in the regretted past .

Reply to  Gina Rhinestone
9 years ago

Uhh…considering the fact that this lawyer was supposed to help her enforce her contract with USA Swimming, which lasted until 2016, I hardly think it is “living in the past” to try and force him to be accountable for shady ethical violations. He had a flat out conflict of interest that he did not disclose and never should have negotiated for her. Her losses continue as we speak. I assume she cannot go after USA Swimming because she signed the deal he negotiated with his buddies at USA Swimming. Wish she could. I’d love for my kid’s dues to go to something worthwhile. His representation was inadequate and were not in the best interest of his client. This is all… Read more »

Gina Rhinestone
Reply to  ohioswimmer
9 years ago

Ok just go give her some money . Atlas shrugged & got on with it .

9 years ago

I say turn pro and get lots of money. Go to college with that money. You can live like a college student and be far better of financially. You can learn through the college, get a degree and train with post grads (which post grads make up the majority of Olympians now anyways – especially guys).

Dagney had problems regardless of what she decided. Add to that – what appears to be – being cheated…. Tough rode for this kid….

I would never have a Olympic talent level swimmer focus all their energy on a rec league local meet – and really NCAA’s is the rec league to international competition. And it is in all in short course yards –… Read more »

Reply to  Swim1
9 years ago

Generally, there is no ripping people of people who respectfully lay out their thoughts/opinions, like you do. The posts that get ripped are the ones that came across as arrogant and/or overly didactic. Two thoughts…

1. I’d say LCM and SCY is closer to violin and viola than violin and trumpet.
2. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve heard plenty of other people say that the high school and NCAA emphases on multiple events in the same session and relays is part of the reason for US success/dominance on the international level. And maybe its mere selection bias, but it does seem a lot of US swimmers generally step up to the plate (baseball metaphor in swimming!) for the… Read more »

9 years ago

#1 – If you swim in the NCAA and add any time in your events, you will be judged a failure and evidence of everything that is wrong with American swimming.
#2 – If you forego NCAA swimming and add any time in your events, you will be judged a failure and evidence of everything that is wrong with American swimming.

The moral of the story?
If you are a high school swimming stud, either plan on swimming best times every year for the rest of your career… or… don’t read comments about yourself on the internet!

I guarantee – regardless of results – within a few years, anonymous internet commenters will deem Katie Ledecky a burnout,… Read more »

9 years ago

Maybe I’m naive but I like to believe that if swimswam commentators were around when she was trying to figure out where to swim we would have overwhelmingly recommended that she stay at Auburn instead of turning pro and this story might have turned out differently. All the best to her.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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