Three Code of Conduct Changes Recommended by USA Swimming Rules Committee

Location:               Page 96 – 304.3  Code of Conduct

Proposed by:        Safe Sport Committee

Purpose:                To comply with the Minimum Standards for Safe Sport mandated by the USOC; if not adopted by an NGB by 12/31/2013, the NGB risks losing USOC high performance funding.  USA Swimming meets or exceeds all of the Safe Sport Minimum Standards except the one regarding athlete-coach romantic or sexual relationships which began during the sport relationship and involves an imbalance of power.

Recommendation: The Rules and Regulations Committee recommends approval, subject to an investigation by the Safe Sport Committee regarding the minimum standards set by the USOC.

Effective Date:      Immediately

304.3  The following shall be considered violations of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct:

.8     A      [unchanged]

B      [unchanged]

C     Romantic or sexual relationships, even if it is a consensual relationship between adults, which began during the swimming relationship, between athletes or other participants and those individuals (i) having direct supervisory or evaluative control, or (ii) who are in a position of power and trust over the athlete or other participant. Except in circumstances where no imbalance of power exists, coaches have this direct supervisory or evaluative control and are in a position of power and trust over those athletes or participants they coach. The prohibition on romantic or sexual relationships does not include those relationships where it can be demonstrated that there is no imbalance of power. For example, this prohibition does not apply to a relationship between two spouses or life partners which existed prior to the swimming relationship. For factors that may be relevant to determining whether an imbalance of power exists, consult the USOC’s Athlete Protection Policy.

Our Discussion: This one was already voted down by the membership at the United States Aquatic Sports convention House of Delegates meeting in 2012, but it is back on the table in 2013.

Here’s where the big conflict between different groups lies in this rule. Most would think it’s a bad idea for a 45 year old coach to have a relationship with an 18 or 19 year old member of his or her team. It’s not healthy for their coach-athlete relationship, and it’s not good for the other members of that team who would not necessarily be treated with the same attention.

But is this rule even legal to implement, restricting relationships between consenting adults, given USA Swimming’s status as the holders of the key to the Olympics and other international-level meets in this country? Is the rule too over-reaching? Would it, say, keep Natalie Coughlin from swimming a practice with her husband Ethan Hall, who is a swim coach?

There’s lots of reasoning in the proposed rule to help protect against these situations, such as saying the rule doesn’t apply anymore if the two sides are married, but then suddenly enforcing the rules becomes incredibly complicated. Would it be better for a coach/athlete to get married in order to maintain their coach/athlete relationship? Who is going to prove when a relationship actually started, when the answer will probably so frequently become “the day before he or she started swimming for me”? Why should there be an issue if, say, a single coach and a single athlete, within the bounds of their jurisdiction (state, federal laws, etc.) wished to engage in a relationship while continuing to train one-on-one? Who is this harming?

This is one of those situations that is incredibly complex to legislate, because lines must be drawn somewhere, and there’s no clear consensus on where those lines should be. By its nature, this is by no means a bad rule, but it reaches a level of complexity that will make a lot of people uncomfortable with it existing.

On the other hand, at the moment, everyone’s hands are tied by the USOC decision. USA Swimming would lose a lot of funding if they didn’t follow. My guess is that the first time this comes up anywhere under the umbrella of USOC, it will end up in court, where we’ll get a better idea of its enforceability.

Location:               Page 97 – 304 Code of Conduct

Proposed by:        Safe Sport Committee

Purpose:                To add sexual abuse by a minor athlete against another minor athlete as a violation of the Code of Conduct.

Recommendation: The Rules and Regulations Committee recommends approval.

Effective Date:      Immediately

304.3  The following shall be considered violations of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct:

.1-7      [No changes]

.8     A      Any inappropriate sexual conduct or advance, or other inappropriate oral, written, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature directed towards an athlete by (i) a coach member or other non-athlete member, or (ii) any other adult participating in any capacity whatso­ever in the activities of USA Swimming (whether such adult is a member or not).

B      Any act of sexual harassment, including without limitation unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other inappropriate oral, written, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature in connection with or incidental to a USA Swimming-related activity by any person participating in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming (whether such person is a member or not) directed toward any member or other person participating in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming.

C     Any peer-to-peer sexual abuse.  For the purposes of the Code of Conduct, the term “peer-to-peer sexual abuse” shall mean any unwelcome physical conduct of a sexual nature directed towards a minor athlete by another minor athlete.

Our Discussion: This rule would make sexual abuse by a minor athlete against another minor athlete a violation of the Code of Conduct. There’s at least one instance on the current banned list of an athlete who is banned for sexual abuse of another minor, but in that instance the person banned was tried in court, so he fell under other auspices of the code of conduct.

This rule would seem to extend the reach and definition of “sexual abuse” beyond simply cases that preceded in front of a court.

Location:               Page 96 – 304.3  Code of Conduct

Proposed by:        David Berkoff, Paris Jacobs, Tim Bauer, Stu Hixon, Mary Jo Swalley, Robert Broyles, Brandon Drawz, Dave Anderson, Ben Britten

Purpose:                                Enforcement of the USA Swimming list of Individuals Permanently Suspended or Ineligible (“Banned List”).

Persons currently listed on the USA Swimming Banned List are attempting to work with USA Swimming athlete members and/or their families and/or USA Swimming member clubs.  Proper protection of USA Swimming athlete members includes enforcement of the Banned List and the prohibition against banned coaches working with USA Swimming members.  Enforcement should include disciplinary action against any USA Swimming member club or coach who facilitates or aids and abets a person on the Banned List to be involved in any USA Swimming activities, including the coaching of current USA Swimming athlete members.

Recommendation: The Rules & Regulations Committee recommends approval.

304.3  The following shall be considered violations of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct:

[.1 -.13 No changes]

.14   For any USA Swimming member club or coach to

A      allow any person who has been placed on the USA Swimming list of “Individuals Permanently Suspended or Ineligible” to coach or instruct any of its athlete members,

B      aid or abet coaching or instruction of athletes by any person who has been placed on the USA Swimming list of “Individuals Permanently Suspended or Ineligible,” or

C     allow any person who has been placed on the USA Swimming list of “Individuals Permanently Suspended or Ineligible” to have an ownership interest in such USA Swimming club or its related entities.

[Note: Section citations in 403.1, 403.2, and 406.1 will be revised as necessary after the Convention so that this new item falls under NBOR jurisdiction.]

[re-number current .14 and remaining subsections]

Our Discussion: This rule would give more teeth to the definition of “permanent ban” and what is and is not allowed for these people. An athlete, completely independently of their club, could still swim for a coach, but no club could help that athlete do so, provide pool space, etc. It would also limit people on the banned list from having an ownership interest in a USA Swimming club or its related entities.

According to USA Swimming board member David  Berkoff, there are at least two instances in which a banned member has attempted to work with USA Swimming members, their families, or member clubs through a private enterprise, and in at least one instance, that of Rick Curl, a club (the Curl-Burke Swim Club, since restructured and reborn as NCAP) was partially owned by a banned coach.

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34 Comments on "Three Code of Conduct Changes Recommended by USA Swimming Rules Committee"

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These need to be approved! It was a shame that these rules were not passed last year because of a few big mouths who carry on stupid senseless discussions. Being at the USAS conference last year, it is amazing that anything happens in USA swimming for the good of the athlete. It is all about the coaches!

Are you a parent? What is the definition of sexual harassment? What age are we talking about? What standard does it rise to? Keep in mind there are many different interpretations state by state of what it is and what it’s not. I see problems with the minors reporting on minors issues – if a 10 year old calls another 10 year old something inappropriate who determines the level of the infraction and the punishment? Will there be classes to the infractions, as there are in our legal system for felonies and misdemeanors? Are athletes allowed legal representation? Can athletes file claims against USA Swimming in Civil Court for suspensions in training? Many of these things seem somewhat unenforceable, and… Read more »

JB has it nailed. You have to answer these sub questions that are brought up. They are currently too broad as is.

304.3 seems so hard to enforce and often define. I would think some wordsmith could come up with a way to word it so that it fits our goals.

It could just be that I’m not bright enough to follow, but what is the statute of limitations on such an issue. Would a fifty-something year old member of USA Swimming who has been married to their 36 yr old former swimmer for 10 years already be in violation of the rule? Would those in that position be banned or fired? Or would this just apply in the future? And if those questions are unaswerable, how do we vote?

Thank god Miley Cyrus does not being to a swim club.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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