In March 2013, we reported that USA Swimming banned Paul Van Lieshout for life on February 6, 2013 under Code of Conduct sections 304.3.4, 304.3.5, and 304.3.15 as written in 2010. Section 304.3.4 at that time allowed for a lifetime ban from USA Swimming for the “[c]onviction of, imposition of a deferred sentence for, or any plea of guilty or no contest at any time, past or present, or the existence of any pending charges, for (i) any felony, (ii) any offense involving use, possession, distribution or intent to distribute illegal drugs or substances, or (iii) any crime involving sexual misconduct.”
In February 2013, we attempted to uncover what offense Van Lieshout had been convicted of, but we were unable to do so. We now know some details. After reading our coverage of his ban, one mother acted courageously and with great determination to prevent contact between her teenage children and Van Lieshout. This mother agreed to anonymously share her story with us.
Circumstances outside of her immediate control placed this mom and her teenagers in close proximity to Van Lieshout on a daily basis. He asked her for a reference letter to use when applying for work. She agreed to write the letter and to facilitate her effort she googled him. One of her first hits was our earlier article, which raised red flags for her. Determined to find out why he was banned for life from coaching, she contacted USA Swimming and was told that they could not disclose any information regarding the decision to ban Van Lieshout.
The mom then contacted us in search for details. We shared with her all the information we had obtained in our investigative searches. To prove her case to remove Van Lieshout from being near her children, however, she needed documentation of his conviction. The information we provided her and the lifetime ban were not enough to remove this convicted child molester from her family. She would not be deterred. Using her own resources, she found the documented evidence she needed:
In 2002, Paul Van Lieshout pled guilty to and was sentenced to a 9 month stayed sentence in prison in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin for 4th degree sexual assault, according to court records. Van Lieshout says that he has “never spent a day in my life in a jail or prison cell.”
Correction: a previous edition of this article said that Van Lieshout served 9 months in prison. The sentence was a “stayed” sentence, meaning that no actual jail time was served.
After Van Lieshout was released from prison in 2002 for sexual assault of a minor, he became the head coach of Catholic University of America from 2005-2008. After leaving that position he was a coach at Howard University from 2008-2009. He was a coach member of USA Swimming from 1994-1995, 1997-1999, 2002-2005, and was a non-coach member in 2010.
In 2006, USA Swimming began requiring coach members to submit to a background check before receiving their accreditation. These background checks were to be renewed every 24 months. In 2010, after not being a member of USA Swimming for 5 years, Van Lieshout applied to become a non-athlete, non-coach member of USA Swimming. At that time only coach member applicants were subject to a background check. Applying to become a USA Swimming official did not require a background check in 2010. Currently, all USA Swimming membership categories require background checks.
We do not know the circumstances of the timing of Van Lieshout’s National Board of Review hearing that resulted in his ban for life in 2013. Under the leadership of Susan Woessner, USA Swimming has become more diligent in eliminating alleged sexually predatory coaches from the pool decks by first receiving information about such a coach, investigating the coach, holding a National Board of Review hearing, and finding by a preponderance of the evidence that the coach violated the Code of Conduct.
Even with these increased safeguards and the investigative process, like the mom in this story, we should each conduct our own due diligence if we have any concerns about a coach’s interaction with any child. We also need to report these same concerns to Ms. Woessner so that USA Swimming may initiate an investigation.