A teenage girl who was sexually abused by her swim coach has sued USA Swimming, the coach, the swim club and others, alleging that swimming authorities failed to protect her from the abuse.
Former swim coach Nathan Weddle was banned by the U.S. Center for SafeSport in January of 2018. He would later plead guilty to engaging in a sexual act with a child between 12 and 15 . The 43-year-old coach was arrested in late 2017 on charges that he had had sex with a 15-year-old girl between August and December of 2017.
Weddle was a coach with the Capital Area Swim Team in Raleigh, North Carolina. Another coach from the club was arrested and banned: police say Shannon Foster knew about the abuse but didn’t report it to authorities. Police say Foster instead yelled at the child over the telephone, claiming the girl had ruined Foster’s relationship with Weddle.
The lawsuit names Weddle, Foster, Capital Area Swim Team and USA Swimming as defendants, along with Titan Fitness North Carolina, an athletic facility where the suit says some of the abuse occurred. Here’s quick rundown of the allegations in the suit against each of those defendants:
The girl and her parents are suing Weddle for sexual battery. The list of allegations against Weddle is long, including a number of sexual offenses. Weddle has already pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a sexual act with a child aged 15-or-younger and 12-or-older and two charges of taking indecent liberties with children under the age of 16. That guilty plea came as part of a plea deal that reduced the charges from 3 counts of engaging in a sexual act with a child and 7 counts of indecent liberties.
The suit says Weddle convinced the girl that the two were dating, suggested they take a vacation alone together to the Caribbean, told her he was in love with her and told her he intended to end his relationship with Foster to be with the girl. The suit also accuses Weddle of kissing the girl, fondling her and performing other sexual acts on her, along with sending explicit text messages.
Weddle is also hit with a charge of intentional infliction of emotional distress for how his behavior affected the girl.
The suit claims negligence and gross negligence against Foster and says she showed more concern for the safety of Weddle than of the girl he was abusing. Foster has already confessed to having knowledge that Weddle was abusing the girl.
The suit also alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress against Foster, based on the claim that Foster verbally attacked the girl for hurting Foster’s relationship with Weddle.
More sweeping than the specific accusations against the coaches, the suit also alleges negligence and gross negligence against USA Swimming, the national governing body for swimming. The suit runs through USA Swimming’s history with SafeSport, a timeline that has been widely criticized. The suit references a 2013 memo from Bruce Stratton and Chuck Wielgus suggesting that an independent review of USA Swimming’s SafeSport program would help the organization gain greater public trust without even listing an increase in athlete safety as a goal of the review.
The suit goes on to lay out USA Swimming’s focus on public relations and media responses to coaching abuse allegations, while criticizing USA Swimming’s failure to implement actual safety standards recommended in the Vieth Report. The suit accuses USA Swimming of “ignoring and covering up complaints made by athletes regarding sexual abuse” and “turning a blind eye to sexual abuse.”
The suit also says that the girl’s parents asked USA Swimming to ban Foster after Weddle was arrested, but that USA Swimming “did not do any research or inquiry into the reason for the request that [Foster] be banned, instead concluding, without investigation, that there was no basis to ban [Foster].” The suit says Foster was allowed to open a new USA Swimming club (the Oak City Rays) after Weddle’s December arrest, and was only banned herself when she was eventually arrested in March in connection with the case.
Capital Area Swim Team
The suit also alleges negligence and gross negligence against Capital Area Swim Team, saying the club allowed an environment to exist where the daughter could be sexually abused. The suit says that after Weddle was arrested, Foster removed the girl from the team’s roster with no other information given. The suit says the only communication between the girl, the girl’s parents and the club was a notification that the girl had been removed from the club.
Titan Fitness North Carolina
The suit also alleges negligence and gross negligence against the aquatic facility, alleging that the facility failed to monitor its facility enough to notice a coach following an underage swimmer into a family changing room.
We’ve reached out to USA Swimming for comment, but haven’t yet received a response.
The suit also charges all defendants with negligent infliction of emotional distress. You can see the full lawsuit here.