A new document from 1991 shows that an ad hoc committee gave USA Swimming a list of recommendations for protecting young athletes from sexual abuse 19 years before USA Swimming launched its own Safe Sport division. That document accompanies a story this week on SwimVortex.com.
The Ad Hoc Committee On Abuses was chaired by then-24-year-old David Berkoff, who was still a competing athlete coming off of two medals in Seoul at the 1988 Olympics and just over a year out from winning two more in Barcelona in 1992.
The 1991 meeting came up with a list of recommendations to USA Swimming to better protect its young athletes. Berkoff expressed hope in the meeting minutes that the committee recommendations could have a real impact on USA Swimming, then known as ‘United States Swimming’ or USS:
“The committee, in its first-ever meeting, was extremely productive and efficient in covering a variety of major problems pervasive in our sport. The outcome of the meeting brings forth a series of legislative recommendations and program ideas, which we hope will [be] embraced by United States Swimming and all its members,” he said.
Among the recommendations made by the committee:
- The formation of a Conduct Review Board (CRB) to review sexual misconduct and other allegations.
- For any USA Swimming member convicted of sexual misconduct to immediately lose their membership.
- CRB reviews of anyone with a prior conviction for sexual misconduct who wishes to become a member.
- CRB review for anyone involved in a ‘non-adjudicated’ sexual misconduct incident, meaning one that hasn’t been subject to a legal judgment in court.
You can read the full minutes of the meeting here.
The committee also touched on a lot of broader issues, including steroid testing and educational programs for coaches, parents and athletes.
The SwimVortex piece reports that the committee recommendations on random/unannounced doping tests were adopted “almost immediately,” but that most of the recommendations regarding sexual abuse took years to be adopted. SwimVortex reports that the proposed CRB was never formed, and that it took six years for USA Swimming to add a Board of Review to its rulebook.
USA Swimming ultimately didn’t create its Safe Sport division until 2010 – 19 years after Berkoff’s committee alerted the federation to a growing problem with sexual abuse. That 2010 creation of the Safe Sport division came after rumors of widespread sexual abuse of athletes by coaches leaked to the press and forced the federation’s hand.
We asked Berkoff for any comment on the meeting and what’s changed in the nearly 27 years since the recommendations, but haven’t yet received a response.
Recently, the federation has come under more of the same scrutiny, particularly after Olympian Ariana Kukors came forward with allegations that longtime coach Sean Hutchison had groomed her from a young age and sexually abused her as a teen. USA Swimming says it was tipped off about an inappropriate coach/swimmer romantic relationship between the two in 2010, but that an investigation hadn’t turned up evidence of wrongdoing.