Paralympic gold medalist Robert Griswold has been accused of sexually assaulting at least one member of the U.S. National Team, a swimmer with intellectual impairment.
Sources told SwimSwam that Griswold, a two-time Paralympian who won two gold medals and broke a world record last summer in Tokyo, used his power within the para-swimming community to groom his teammate and threaten retaliation if he spoke out.
Two months ago, when the mother of Griswold’s accuser discovered journal entries describing alleged abuse happening at the Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, she immediately drove nearly 1,000 miles through the night to bring her son home. Soon after, on August 23, Griswold was temporarily suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport for the second time due to allegations of misconduct.
A police report has been filed and law enforcement has conducted lengthy forensic interviews, but Griswold has not been arrested or charged with a crime as of publication on Thursday. Colorado Springs Police denied SwimSwam’s records request “due to an active/open investigation.” Although some close to the situation are optimistic that he will be arrested soon, they are also growing frustrated with how long the police investigation is taking.
A lawyer representing Griswold said that he “vehemently denies any wrongdoing.”
Griswold allegedly raped his teammate to the point that rectum surgery was required, according to sources. The alleged victim, who competed in the S14 classification for intellectually impaired swimmers with IQs of 75 or under, had dreams of attending the next two Paralympic Games in Paris and Los Angeles. Swimming was his outlet. Now his mother says he no longer wants to get in the water because of what he experienced, which allegedly included other forms of abuse as well.
An NPR series from 2018 revealed that people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at more than seven times the rate of those without disabilities.
U.S. Paralympic Swimming did not respond to a request for comment regarding claims that they failed to protect their most vulnerable athletes. Griswold was added to the SafeSport database in September of 2020 for allegations of misconduct, but he had his suspension lifted before winning gold medals in the S8 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly at the Tokyo Paralympics.
During the Paralympics, an intellectually impaired National Team member walked in on Griswold exploiting his teammate and punched the wall out of anger at what he saw, according to one source. Griswold allegedly flipped the narrative and blamed his intellectually impaired teammate, who was reprimanded by coaches for the outburst.
“He was essentially in charge of the intellectually disabled athletes on our team and would take them everywhere and get them ready,” one National Team member said of Griswold. “It was a little weird, because us as teammates, we always were like, ‘Why isn’t there a staff member on the staff to solely take care of these athletes? Robert’s got races, he’s got stuff to worry about. Why is he in charge of these two guys?’”
Sources told SwimSwam that Griswold carries significant influence in the para-swimming world in part because he helped create the algorithm that decided Tokyo Paralympic roster selections and relay lineups for the U.S. National Team. In June, after winning six medals at the 2022 World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira, he was elected by fellow athletes as the lone American representative on the international Athletes Advisory Group (AAG). A U.S. Para Swimming spokesperson said he is not currently serving on the AAG.
Members of the National Team allege that U.S. Paralympic Swimming leaders ignored complaints against Griswold and hid them from teammates for years.
“Negligence and secrecy is what allowed the abuse of some of our most vulnerable teammates on U.S. Paralympic Swimming,” another National Team member told SwimSwam. “Administration and leadership within the organization withheld pertinent information to the safety and well-being of the majority of their athletes to protect the reputation and privilege of a favored individual. They are equally responsible. Had our community been made aware of all previous allegations, something as heinous as that which has now occurred would have most likely been avoided.”
After publication of this article, an attorney representing several families allegedly affected by Griswold released a statement confirming there are multiple accusers involved.
“We can confirm that the events reported today in the SwimSwam article are unfortunately reflective of the facts and circumstances regarding this tragic incident,” said Frank Salzano of Salzano Ettinger Lampert & Wilson. “Our law office, along with Erickson Kramer Osborne, represent several of the families impacted by this atrocity. The families intend to seek immediate legal redress against all of the responsible particles, including, without limitation, Mr. Griswold, as well as the U.S. Paralympic Swimming for its negligent handling of Mr. Griswold’s predatory acts and behavior, which the U.S. Paralympic Swimming was aware of, and failed to properly prevent. The families will not be making any further comments at this time, and we ask that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
Note: SwimSwam by policy doesn’t identify victims of sexual assault without their permission. The identifying details in this article were approved by the victim’s legal guardian.