SafeSport CEO Faces Questions About Alleged Rapist Robert Griswold at Congressional Hearing

U.S. Center for SafeSport CEO Ju’Riese Colon fielded questions about Paralympic swimming champion Robert Griswold‘s abuse case at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on Thursday.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina), who counts alleged victim Parker Egbert among his former constituents, asked Colon why Griswold was allowed to room with Egbert and essentially act as his caretaker even after appearing in SafeSport’s database back in 2020. Griswold, who has cerebral palsy, is accused of raping Egbert, who has autism, at the Colorado Springs Olympic & Paralympic Training Center as well as at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021.

“SafeSport doesn’t have anything to do with assignments,” Colon said in reference to Griswold’s living arrangements with Egbert. “That is heartbreaking — his case, I read his firsthand accounts, and it was terrible. Nobody should have to go through what he did. We are in the middle of an investigation on the SafeSport side, and I can’t disclose too much there because we’re in the middle of an investigation.”

SafeSport temporarily suspended Griswold in August of 2022, a couple months before details of his allegations surfaced. SafeSport took over the investigation after the Colorado Springs Police Department stopped pursuing criminal charges last year (the case remains open but inactive). A civil lawsuit filed by the Egbert family in November of 2022 remains ongoing, though SafeSport was ultimately dropped as a defendant due to the organization’s legal immunity from eligibility decisions.

“Why have almost two years gone by without a word from SafeSport?” Duncan followed up.

“Because we’re coordinating with parties in the civil suit to get access to depositions and discovery to avoid the need to re-interview potential trauma survivors,” Colon said.

A recurring theme at the hearing was the need for increased transparency from SafeSport. Griswold was first added to SafeSport’s disciplinary database in 2020 on allegations of misconduct, but he was removed in time to attend the Tokyo Paralympics the following summer. That approach differs from anti-doping, where information about offenders remains public even after they have served their punishment.

“It’s not evergreen,” Nicole Deal, senior vice president for security and athlete safety at the USOPC. “If someone has a suspension for two years, they’re on that CDD for two years and then they are removed. So what we are seeing now are the different NGBs putting that evergreen list on their sites.”

SafeSport is currently overwhelmed by complaints (about 7,500 just last year alone) with a budget of about $23 million and 125 staff members, around half of whom are dedicated to responding to resolutions. Colon said the budget should be more like $30 million to manage the heavy caseload without lengthy delays.

Responding to a question from Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado), Colon said SafeSport’s $20 million of funding from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) does not disincentivize national governing bodies (NGBs) from reporting misconduct. But just a few minutes later, former NWSL soccer player and current chair of the U.S. Soccer Federation Participant Safety Task Force Mana Shim pointed out that NGBs pay a higher fee for bringing more cases to SafeSport, completely contradicting Colon’s previous statement.

A proposed bill in the Senate is calling for public funding of SafeSport among a series of reforms in a rewrite of the Ted Stevens Sports Act. The changes are based on an in-depth report released last month by the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics & Paralympics.

“Congress should make SafeSport fully independent so it can earn athletes’ trust and be held more accountable to the movement and the public,” the Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics & Paralympics said in its 275-page report based on a two-year study.

The hearing also featured USA Softball chief executive Craig Cress, who expressed concerns about leagues disaffiliating from his NGB and operating without SafeSport guidelines. The issue has made its way to the swimming world, too, with some clubs switching to dual membership with AAU to save money and time without SafeSport training courses.

Related: 

7
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

7 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Susan DeMere
2 months ago

Robert Griswold is an “alleged” rapist. Pure and simple. Neither the Paralympic Organization, the Colorado Springs Police Dept, nor Safe Sport investigated this matter and brought it to a just conclusion. All are covering up. As per usual, my comment will not be printed.

Jess
Reply to  Susan DeMere
2 months ago

Evidence, witnesses?

Jess
2 months ago

Did the Colorado Springs police investigate the allegations? Did they file any criminal charges?

CJ Johnson
2 months ago

Safe sport is a joke. The thing that most sticks out about this article is despite being charged with care and implementing all kinds of silly hurdles for volunteers…. They are immune from any consequences of both their overreaction and complete inaction. They could not be more useless.

Gldnbehr
2 months ago

God damn I hate SafeSport.

Pescatarian
Reply to  Gldnbehr
2 months ago

I hate perverts more.

Sapiens Ursus
Reply to  Pescatarian
2 months ago

Here’s the thing, ask yourselves who exactly dedicates their time to directly and actively confronting them at scale? It’s not unheard of for organizations supposed to protect people to be coopted and corrupted by the very people they’re supposed to be procuring others from…

Look, occams razor it’s probably just incompetence. But when this organization is going after teenagers for behavior that could be easily explained by kids being immature, because they’re kids, while seemingly most often going “nothing to see here” in actually seemingly serious cases like this… it deserves a hairy eyeball that the incompetence may not be innocuous…

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 …

Read More »