Teenage Swimmer “Frustrated” As Drawn Out SafeSport Case Puts Future In Question

A teenage swimmer and his family are running thin on patience as sanctions imposed by the U.S. Center for SafeSport nearly two years ago continue to hamper his progress.

In April 2022, a then 13-year-old swimmer received a surprise email from the U.S. Center for SafeSport notifying him he was facing allegations of “Sexual Misconduct,” the Associated Press (AP) reported Wednesday.

The email read in part: “Between approximately 2019 and 2022, you allegedly engaged in a pattern of behavior which constitutes Sexual Misconduct.”

After a three-month wait, the teenager learned that he was accused of slapping another teammate on the butt in a locker room in June 2021.

The SafeSport case remains open to this day, though it was dismissed by local police—located some 40 miles north of Denver—in quick order.

The swimmer is now 16 and a sophomore in high school. He has not been identified because he is a minor.

“Their allegations are entirely untrue,” he told AP. “So my reaction, when I heard them, I was thrown off and confused. And then I was upset.”

The U.S. Center for SafeSport has become known to have drawn out investigations—just last week, former Cal head coach Teri McKeever was suspended 11 months after she was fired and 19 months after the allegations first surfaced.

The delay in the case has led to growing frustration, with the swimmer’s mother saying that all of her questions have taken days or weeks to be answered and have mostly had lackluster responses.

“I think the guilty-until-proven-innocent aspect is what bothers me the most, because right now, he’s still (considered) guilty until the case is finalized,” she said.

“I asked if I could see a copy of the report. They said ‘Yes, eventually,’ I asked, ‘When?’ They said ‘When we’re done.’ I asked, ‘When’s that?’ They said, ‘We don’t know.’

“I scratch my head and wonder if they’re overwhelmed, if they just don’t have the staff to take care of all the complaints that are coming in. Or, are they incompetent?” she said.

As of November, an investigator told the family he “could not provide a firm timeline” for resolving the case.

Although the teenager has been able to compete in high school swimming, he has not been able to participate in club meets.

In the fall of 2023, he was finally able to register for a USA Swimming event with restrictions: He had to be chaperoned on pool deck and couldn’t come into contact with his accuser.

At a meet in November, the swimmer was notified by a referee that he was breaking the rules and would not be allowed to continue competing for the rest of the meet, taking him out of his best event where he had the chance to qualify for “a key junior national meet” in December—presumably Winter Juniors.

This came after his mother, who had taken over as his full-time head coach and was acting as his chaperone, briefly “turned away from him,” AP reports.

The referee who removed the swimmer was Linda Eaton, a Colorado Swimming official who received the USA Swimming Officials Excellence Award in 2019. Eaton declined to comment on the case to AP.

The allegations made against the swimmer also said he engaged in “bullying behaviors.”

The swimmer told AP that he, his accuser and another boy who witnessed the incident had exchanged bullying accusations in the past and they had all been resolved by their schools and swim clubs before SafeSport was involved.

His mother said when they were contacted by SafeSport, they had no idea what the accusations were given that “many months had passed” since the issues with the accuser had occurred.

The accuser’s mother confirmed to AP that she filed the report on her son’s behalf but declined to comment.

SafeSport spokesperson Hilary Nemchik did admit that the Center has been struggling to keep up with the demand as allegations continue to roll in at a high rate.

“The center needs more financial resources to support the growing number of reports,” Nemchik said, according to AP. “The 7,000 allegations received in 2023 mark around a 30% increase over 2022 and a nearly 350% increase over 2020.”

SafeSport CEO Ju’Riese Colon said at a congressional hearing in September: “At the rate we are seeing more reports coming in, I think we are kind of staring down a barrel right now of, like, what’s going to happen next?”

In November 2022, the swimmer had a chance to reach an “informal resolution” in the case: If he admitted to slapping the other boy, he could continue swimming with a six-month probationary period.

“We asked my son, ‘Are you OK with this?’” the mother said. “And he said ‘No, I’m not going to admit to something I didn’t do.’”

His family remains concerned that, not only could not being able to compete in club meets impact his future, but the case might represent a red flag for college programs down the road.

“It’s just really frustrating thinking that it’s still causing problems,” the swimmer said.

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4 days ago

The same thing happened to us. A volleyball team. I even received word team director was still spreading the lie about our daughter. She also claimed, in a recent inquiry, that our daughter was guilty of sexual assault. Therefore, if this is true why did they fail to report? I think these elite travel teams have been infiltrated by parents who think they are elite. They engage in toxic competitive behavior not only through their child, but to other parents. I also believe this is leveraged against the players if they are not well liked or are different in any way. Safesport is corrupt as well as their lack of transparency allows them to play both sides of the case.… Read more »

4 months ago

Let’s stage a coup against SafeSport. Who’s with me!? For all of those who are downtrodden, your time is now!

Reply to  Eisenheim
1 month ago

I will! I have a great case!

4 months ago

This is currently happening to my 14 year old hockey player. We haven’t even been told what they are being accused of, but they are suspended until it is resolved. It’s been 3 plus months and have been told there is ZERO timeline for an investigator to even be assigned. All we have are text messages over a couple of days of a tournament, and nothing that I would even consider outside of typical 14 year old stupidity. We are powerless let alone the effect it has had on my child. And talking to them, nothing physical ever happened, and I believe them.

The Michael Phelps Caterpiller
4 months ago

I would never allow this to happen in my 12 and under group. In fact, all my swimmers are required to show up in their suits and immediately jump in the pool to start sprinting – no warm up. There is no wasted time in “locker rooms”. Change your clothes on your own time – not at my pool!

Reply to  The Michael Phelps Caterpiller
4 months ago

because kids never need to pee or poo during practice? hopefully you only allowed 1 person to use the loo at a time.

Reply to  The Michael Phelps Caterpiller
4 months ago

This had better be an attempt at humor.

Reply to  The Michael Phelps Caterpiller
4 months ago

And have the kids ruin my car seats with soggy wet swim suits? No thank you.

You Can Keep It
4 months ago

Let’s call safe sport what it 95% is, risk management that puts unneeded pressure and procedures on swim teams.

Reply to  You Can Keep It
4 months ago

Ehh, I’d call it 75% that.

They have banned a LOT of bad coaches. We can question their effectiveness, prioritization, efficiency, and processes, and I’m on board with all of that. But, they have gotten a lot of bad people out of youth sports as well. This is your friendly reminder that prior to SafeSport, USA Swimming executive Pat Hogan wrote a letter of recommendation to a known predator for a job working with children. And you can look up Pat Hogan’s history if you want to be even angrier.

It’s better than what we had, it just isn’t good enough yet.


Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

These are difficult issues. We simultaneously expect both a prompt resolution and a thorough investigation. We do not want to drive good people out of the sport but we do not want bad people to be able to operate in the margins. And we neither want the liability associated with inconsistent adherence to best practices nor the inconvenience that comes with strict adherence. I hope for a quick a just resolution to this case.

4 months ago

Even if they were true, he slapped a teammate on the butt? Isnt that just normal SPORTS banter? Football players do it, baseball players, soccer, etc.

Reply to  Swimmer209
4 months ago

and it’s usually taken care of as a team

Live Wire
Reply to  Swimmer209
4 months ago

This story is unbelievable,

4 months ago

“The center needs more financial resources to support the growing number of reports,”

Maybe they should look at their CEO who is making over 300k a year and the reset of the administrative team who is making at least 120k. Around a 2 mil salary budget for just the top people shows you where the money is going.

Reply to  Swimws
4 months ago

Wow the classes must really be separating if we are getting to the point that people are complaining about 120k being too much…

Proper Pog
Reply to  Markster
4 months ago

120k is too much for anyone this incompetent.

Reply to  Markster
4 months ago

are you saying that 120 is not much?

4 months ago

I don’t think the accusations in this case were the reason safe sport was created. When my kids were young- locker room issues happened and they were addressed with timely and appropriate responses. This doesn’t make sense.

Reply to  Lifeguard
4 months ago

Agreed. An allegation of butt slapping should be handled at the club and then LSC level. Too many parents are using safesport as a way to get back at other families they don’t like or with respect to pretty minor incidents.

Last edited 4 months ago by Pescatarian
Reply to  Pescatarian
4 months ago

This right here 👆🏻. Happened to some kids at a well known club in Baltimore area. Heard about it from a friend on the team. letters from (nameless/anonymous) parents with an agenda….
people like this shouldn’t be in youth sports.

Reply to  Daddyswims
4 months ago

Not surprised. I think some of the people involved in swimming further their agenda and protect “their people” that way.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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