No Arrest, No SafeSport Update: Robert Griswold’s Abuse Case Remains in Limbo 1 Year Later

More than a year after sexual abuse allegations surfaced against two-time Paralympic gold medalist Robert Griswold, his case remains in a sort of legal limbo.

According to a heavily redacted 70-page Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) report obtained by SwimSwam via an open records request earlier this month, Griswold has not been arrested “because of the lack of witnesses and there is not enough corroborating evidence presented to meet the standard of probable cause.”

CSPD’s investigation is open but inactive pending new information while the U.S. Center for SafeSport investigation and civil lawsuit against Griswold remain ongoing. Griswold, who turns 27 later this month, is ineligible to return to competition at least until the SafeSport investigation has concluded. He was given a temporary suspension on Aug. 23, 2022 that is still in place 15 months later.

Last fall, Griswold was accused of repeatedly raping a U.S. Paralympic teammate with severe autism whom he roomed with last year at the U.S. Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs from January until August. The family of the alleged victim then sued Griswold, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and SafeSport, but SafeSport was ultimately dropped from the lawsuit as a defendant due to the organization’s legal immunity from eligibility decisions.

“We believe the evidence and findings more than support a criminal charge,” said Elizabeth Kramer and Frank Salzano, two of the lawyers representing one of Griswold’s alleged victims. “Due to the ongoing nature of the matter, we have limited insight into their decision making and are still hopeful that law enforcement will take action against Mr. Griswold.

“The (civil) case is moving ahead on pace with the Court’s scheduling order,” they added. “We are actively prosecuting our client’s claims, and there has been a robust exchange of information in discovery, including thousands of documents and depositions of key witnesses. While it may seem slow, the case is on par with other similar cases, especially where a defendant refuses to answer questions by taking the 5th.”

Griswold, who has cerebral palsy, was also placed on SafeSport’s temporarily ineligible list in September of 2020 after grabbing a female Paralympian’s butt in an elevator and later texting her, “I just want to f***.” However, he was deemed eligible again ahead of the Tokyo Paralympics the following year, going on to win gold medals in the S8 100 back and 100 fly.

“SafeSport was dismissed from the case because of far-reaching immunity privileges that lawmakers have afforded SafeSport by statute,” said Kramer and Salzano. “While we believe SafeSport’s immunity is highly problematic and should be the subject of inquiry and reconsideration from lawmakers, we determined that dismissing SafeSport and focusing on the other defendants was the best course of action for our client.”

Data suggests that 50% of people with disabilities will experience sexual abuse 10 or more times in their life, but only 37% report abuse to law enforcement and just 5% of those reported cases lead to prosecution or conviction.

According to the police report, CSPD lead detective Dedra Worley recommended that El Paso County Fourth Judicial District deputy district attorney Kelson Castain not move forward with criminal charges against Griswold. Worley is a former USOPC resident athlete who trained to be an alternate for the 1996 Olympics in judo, but a CSPD spokesperson told SwimSwam they don’t believe there is any conflict of interest.

The police report references a SafeSport incident report that indicates there may have been a fellow Paralympian who witnessed one of Griswold’s alleged assaults at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, but Worley never appears to have interviewed the potential witness or his family. She noted that “no other interviews related to Japan will be completed as they are out of the jurisdiction and scope of this investigation.” CSPD also never talked to Griswold, who declined to speak through his lawyer.

Without any cooperating witnesses, the main evidence became the alleged victim’s lengthy forensic interview and medical documents from his trips to the hospital for rectal surgery. The nurse practitioner told police “from her own gut feeling, she has seen a lot of people who have been assaulted,” and the alleged victim “seems very genuine and truthful.” She added that his injuries could only be the result of anal penetration or chronic constipation, and the alleged victim’s family said he does not have a history of the latter.

However, neither the nurse practitioner or the surgeon could definitely tell Worley that his injuries were the result of sexual assault because an evidence collection exam was not completed within the necessary four-day window from the last incident of assault.

The USOPC launched its own internal investigation last November into whether U.S. Paralympic Swimming officials and coaches were negligent in their handling of the situation. Employees were reinstated in February after apparently being cleared of wrongdoing — except for former head coach Nathan Manley, who was supposedly found to have committed a separate, unspecified policy violation during the USOPC investigation.

U.S. Paralympic Swimming director Erin Popovich told police that her work phone and computer were taken from her for the internal investigation from November 2022 to February 2023. When asked about the alleged victim’s relationship with Griswold, Popovich said she was at the Olympic Training Center “only once or twice per month unless Manley was away,” and that she “did not have a lot of day-to-day interaction at the training center.” She added that both athletes “had their good days and bad days.”

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Oceanian
7 months ago

What a strange and sad story.

PBJSwimming
7 months ago

I read the report, and I am not sure why/how the police cite a lack of corroborating evidence as their reason for not presenting charges.

  • The victim reported that he was assaulted
  • The victim had physical injuries that were consistent with the reported assault
  • The accused person demonstrated a pattern of inappropriate/abusive/predatory behaviors that were witnessed by other people

If this was brought to trial, then a judge or jury could determine guilt or innocence. Instead, the involved parties are stuck in this foggy limbo.

Disappointed
7 months ago

This is a scenario where I’m close to thinking the swim community at large should take an active stand in not letting Griswold in or to acceptingly participate.

I understand that yes, they were not found guilty, so there are legal and real boundaries that can’t be crossed. But I can’t look at the evidence given, the surgery the victim had to go through, the other instances with the other para swimmer and say yes, this sounds like an individual who should be actively involved in our sport and think justice was served here. I mean, look at the reporting and arrest stats. The system clearly isn’t working for the right people.

And if the case is finished here and… Read more »

Flip turn Friday
7 months ago

So the police report says lack of witnesses. How many people that get raped have witnesses??? The lead detective lived and trained at the training center and should have removed herself due to conflict of interest. This story screams cover up. Head coach Nathan Manley was fired for a policy violation, sure. Erin Popovich is only at the training center once or twice a month and she’s the director, sure.

JVW
Reply to  Flip turn Friday
7 months ago

What, the lead detective trained for the Olympics in a different sport some 27 years ago and therefore she has to recuse herself from investigating the case? Do you know of any evidence that she and the accused knew each other or had any interactions prior to this? That makes no sense. It’s like claiming that if the detective went to the same university a generation before the accused then that also would be grounds for recusal.

jake
7 months ago

Safe sport is such a joke at this point. Justice for the victim and his family.

Pieter H
7 months ago

Data suggests that 50% of people with disabilities will experience sexual abuse 10 or more times in their life, but only 37% report abuse to law enforcement and just 5% of those reported cases lead to prosecution or conviction.

These data is so depressing 😞

Susan DeMere
7 months ago

Definitely a cover-up. I am familiar with the case and the victim. Such a tragedy. Don’t ever call yourself “SafeSport”. What a lie.

Jon
8 months ago

Ironically, the case came to a stand still.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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