USA Swimming’s National Board of Review has ruled that former Greater Holyoke YMCA swim coach Randall Smith will not be banned from coaching. Smith was fired from the program after he was accused of sexually abusing a swimmer, though he was never convicted or even charged with a crime.
The National Board of Review came to a 2-1 decision not to ban Smith, on the grounds that there simply wasn’t enough evidence to determine his guilt. You can read the 13-page decision here.
A statement from USA Swimming on the outcome is below:
“USA Swimming brought a case to the National Board of Review against Randall Smith on allegations that he violated its Code of Conduct. By a 2-1 vote, the NBOR found that USA Swimming failed to meet its burden that Mr. Smith engaged in the alleged misconduct by a preponderance of the evidence. The decision makes clear that the Panel did not determine the misconduct did not occur. Rather, as occurred with Holyoke Police and the Massachusetts Child Protective Social Services, it has again been concluded that there was insufficient evidence to render a finding against Mr. Smith.
“USA Swimming takes protection of children very seriously and we are deeply committed to the safety and welfare of all our members. Our Safe Sport Program, through continued introduction of new programming, educational tools and outreach efforts, increases awareness to reduce the risk for abuse in sport. USA Swimming has no tolerance for violations of our Code of Conduct.”
The proceedings with Smith have become a high-profile story as of late. In December, Outside magazine published a lengthy piece on sexual abuse within the sport of swimming, using the Smith case as its main narrative and the alleged victim, Anna Strzempko, as its main character. The alleged abuse took place over about two and a half years, starting in 2008 when Strzempko was 13.
Editor’s note: It is SwimSwam’s policy to only publish the names of sexual abuse victims when those victims have chosen to identify themselves publicly, as Ms. Strzempko did in the Outside magazine story.
The major complication in USA Swimming’s National Board of Review hearing was the absence of Strzempko herself, who didn’t feel she could handle talking about the alleged abuse in a hearing setting with Smith in the room. More specifically, the Board of Review decision notes that Strzempko is “only able to discuss it when she is in complete control of the situation.”
The National Board of Review has, in the past, banned a coach even without the victim’s presence at the hearing.
That left the case against Smith with only one live witness, Victor Vieth of the National Child Protection Training Center. Vieth served as an expert witness in the subject, as he routinely consults with prosecutors and law enforcement officials, but the Board of Review decision did note that Vieth had never met with the victim, the accused coach, or the investigators in this specific case. His only contact was a one-hour conversation with Strzempko’s mother.
Two of the board’s three members voted to not ban Smith permanently from coaching, citing a lack of evidence in the case against him. The third member, however, dissented and voted that Smith should be banned for life.
Whether he is banned or not, Smith is no longer a coach at Greater Holyoke YMCA – he was fired from his position there in 2012, when Strzempko first went public with her accusations.