USA Swimming: “The organization legally had no recourse” in NBAC Coach Complaint

  19 Braden Keith | October 04th, 2012 | Club, Featured, National, News

Tim Joyce of WBAL in Baltimore has broken another big story on the front of sexual abuse in swimming, as he claims he has been in contact with a victim who claims to have been sexually abused while at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, home to Michael Phelps and Bob Bowman.

Joyce reports that the victim reported the activities to her club in October of 2011, at which time the impeccably-managed club seems to have taken every appropriate action: they immediately relieved the coach of his duties, they reported him to the police, and they reported him to USA Swimming.

NBAC wouldn’t comment on the case, though one will recall that there was much coaching turnover in the club in the fall of 2011.

From that point, Joyce reports that the victim was never contacted by USA Swimming, and that there was no follow-up on the case, though no sources were revealed, even by their connection to the situation if not by name.

The story was initially removed from the WBAL website, but has since returned with a note from the editor that all claims were backed up by “unimpeachable” sources.

USA Swimming Responds

USA Swimming has fought back, responding to parents of the club with a list of Questions and Answers. The letter begins by referring to the claims as “unfounded,”  in stark contrast to the statement made by the editors at WBAL who claim to have verified Joyce’s sources. The statement also refers to Joyce’s claims as “inaccurate, sensational, and issue-driven reporting.” The letter then goes into details about the 6 core areas of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport program, and says that it is “routinely recognized as the best in Olympic sport.”

(The letter, addressed to “parents and friends of NBAC,” went into some detail about how complaints within the program are handled, as it was originally geared toward that audience, as compared to the audience that has been closely following the story through the news and would already be familiar with many of the concepts. To read all about the SafeSport program, click here, or read the full letter below).

Next, USA Swimming sends off details about the complaint, beginning with stating that there is not a current investigation involving any coach from NBAC. The abuse was alleged to have taken place in 1975, when swimming was governed by the AAU. According to USA Swimming, that they had no legal recourse because they didn’t exist in 1975.

They do state, however, that they passed the complaint and information to the Baltimore County Police Department, Precinct 1.

The coach resigned his position at the club and his USA Swimming membership in 2011 (as compared to WBAL, who claims the coach was removed from his duties by the club).

Full Text of the Letter from USA Swimming, Unedited:

Q&A: On the blog about North Baltimore Aquatic Club


Dear parents and friends of NBAC,

It has come to our attention that a local AM radio station has been broadcasting unfounded accusations about USA Swimming’s handling of a complaint to our Safe Sport team related to NBAC involving an alleged incident that occurred 37 years ago. While the organization continues to work compassionately and tirelessly on our comprehensive abuse-prevention initiative, which is routinely recognized as the best in Olympic sport, we remain as frustrated as you are with inaccurate, sensational, issue-driven reporting like this.

Regardless, we believe strongly in our responsibility to provide responsible communication on this issue, so we developed the Q&A below to answer questions you may have about this situation.

Swimming is a fun, healthy activity that provides a positive, valuable life experience for its participants. All of us at USA Swimming are committed to fostering that experience for all our members in a safe environment.

Please know that we take the safety of our swimmers very seriously, and through our Safe Sport program we thoroughly investigate issues and quickly and prudently take action. That is our unwavering commitment to you.

What is USA Swimming’s stance on Safe Sport?

USA Swimming put in place a comprehensive Safe Sport program, which is among the strongest in youth sports. Our program consists of efforts in six core areas:

  1. Policies & Guidelines
  2. Screening & Selection
  3. Training & Education
  4. Monitoring & Supervision
  5. Recognizing, Reporting & Responding
  6. Grassroots Engagement & Feedback.

USA Swimming is proud of its proactive approach to abuse prevention and continually strives to be the leader in Safe Sport in the Olympic movement.

During our annual convention, USA Swimming released a “Safe Sport Report” evaluating our efforts in this important area. The report is attached to this email for your review.

What is the status of the complaint and investigation arising from NBAC?

There is not a current investigation involving any coach from NBAC. There was previously a complaint filed regarding an incident alleged to have occurred in 1975, back when swimming was governed by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Because USA Swimming (and therefore its Code of Conduct) was not in existence in 1975, the organization legally had no recourse in the matter. However, due to USA Swimming’s commitment to Safe Sport and the safety of our swimmers, we reported the complaint and information received to the Baltimore County Police Department, Precinct 1.

What happened to the coach?

The coach resigned both his position at the club and his USA Swimming membership in 2011.

How does USA Swimming handle complaints?

USA Swimming takes all complaints regarding violations of the Code of Conduct, and especially those involving alleged abuse, very seriously. When a complaint is received, USA Swimming initiates an investigation through a third-party investigator. The investigator conducts a thorough review to determine if the complaint has merit.

When the investigation corroborates the complaint, USA Swimming requests a National Board of Review Hearing against the individual. The National Board of Review has the authority to rule on the membership status of the accused individual. The highest penalty USA Swimming can invoke is the permanent suspension of membership. Additionally, when the complaint involves abuse of a minor, USA Swimming reports that information to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

What about screening for coaches?

USA Swimming does extensive background checks (covering federal, state and county records) on coaches and has added a background check requirement for all non-athlete members. We also require teams to perform additional pre-employment screenings of new coaches. All Non-athlete members of USA Swimming are also required to complete athlete protection training.

USA Swimming publishes a public listing of individuals suspended from the organization for life.

As a parent, what can I do about Safe Sport?

USA Swimming offers free online education on the issue of Safe Sport and abuse prevention for parents of our 330,000 athlete members. We strongly encourage all of our parents to participate in this convenient online training by visiting and clicking on “Education.”

What if I have questions or concerns?

USA Swimming employs a Safe Sport staff at our national headquarters in Colorado Springs, and the staff members are here to help answer questions, execute programming and accept reports. You can contact Susan Woessner, director of Safe Sport, at [email protected] or Elizabeth Hoendervoogt, Safe Sport coordinator, at [email protected].

Get more information about Safe Sport here (

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19 Comments on "USA Swimming: “The organization legally had no recourse” in NBAC Coach Complaint"

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4 years 19 days ago

Enough is enough. How do we get a leadership change? We missed the boat with elections in September. Tell me we are not stuck with this puppet board for the next 2 years. How many more stories are they sitting on that are going to come out? This sickens me.

4 years 19 days ago

Thank god for Tim Joyce. As the parent of 2 female USA swimmers, I can say that I feel he is our best hope for inciting true change AND accountability within the highest levels of USA swimming.

4 years 19 days ago

At least NBAC handled their business. Swimming wouldn’t have any problems if every team did as much. As to USAS, ugh. It’s all about them as usual.

4 years 19 days ago

I have a huge amount of respect for Coach Bowman; I am sure calling USA Swimming was not an easy thing to do when it comes to one of your mentors.

And USA Swimming… I can’t defend them any more. Who knows what more they are covering up…

4 years 19 days ago

Seems to me USA Swimming did everything they could for an alleged abuse that took place 37 years ago. They investigated and passed it on the police, and the coach lost his membership. Where’s the smoking gun?

4 years 18 days ago

Actually, NBAC is the one who did everything right, not USA Swimming. USA Swimming didn’t do anything, because they couldn’t. From the statement: “Because USA Swimming (and therefore its Code of Conduct) was not in existence in 1975, the organization legally had no recourse in the matter.”.

The coach wasn’t removed by USA Swimming, he resigned his membership. For an annual fee he could come right back and no one could stop him.

The fear shared by many in our community is that if this were to happen today and was brought to USA Swimming’s attention they wouldn’t bring it to the police.

NBAC acted perfectly. First go to the police, then go to USA Swimming. It is the only way to be certain that it will be handled by the authorities.

The Law
4 years 18 days ago

This is a strange story because of the fact that it is not USA Swimming’s jurisdiction to get involved other than to pass it on to the police. The only thing USA Swimming has a legal right to do is not allow this person to be a USA Swimming member if and only if he is convicted. Otherwise this person can sue for infringing upon his rights.

As far as people saying, “enough is enough,” you should understand that unfortunately in a country this large with the freedoms it has and an organization as large as USA Swimming sexually harassment cases are going to happen. I applaud the fact that USA Swimming is now out in the open about it. They are doing a lot more than most other large sporting organizations in the U.S. do.

4 years 18 days ago

“The only thing USA Swimming has a legal right to do is not allow this person to be a USA Swimming member if and only if he is convicted.”

This is not true. I know of at least two people on the list who were not convicted by law. Ask Rick Curl for starters.

Being a member of USA Swimming is a privilege, not a right.

Coach GB
4 years 18 days ago

It is appreciated that there are many points of view on what has happened and who should be or should have done various things.There is a need for explanation in some of the ways things should have been handled.
But on this recent case from 76 the group that was the governing body for swimming is still located and in continuos business on W 86th St in Indianapolis. The person who handled swimming then was an Employee of the AAU and had other duties till the fall of 76 when we began to make progress toward autonomy.Governance was handled by all the sports together.
In this case US Swimming did what it could.

4 years 18 days ago

So if a coach has sexual relations with a swimmer (regardless of age) as a high school or NCAA level coach, he or she can later join USA Swimming since he or she was not registered with USA Swimming at the time?

4 years 17 days ago

My vote is YES – because unless there is a criminal record or somebody sends a report to the LSC or USA Swimming, USA Swimming will never know.

4 years 17 days ago

What if they do know?

4 years 17 days ago

It probably has a lot to do with who you are and who your friends are. The rules seem to be flexible.

4 years 15 days ago

“They (USA Swimming) do state, however, that they passed the complaint and information to the Baltimore County Police Department, Precinct 1.”

Turns out this might be a lie as well. Baltimore police have found no record of any complaint being passed on – yet.

4 years 15 days ago

USA Swimming states: “Because USA Swimming (and therefore its Code of Conduct) was not in existence in 1975, the organization legally had no recourse in the matter. ” Not true.

An argument could be made that the “rape and escape” dodge should not work. Rule 304.3.7(ii) addresses “any other adult participating in any capacity… (whether such adult is a member or not)” with regards to sexual conduct.

This is a mandatory report under Article 306.1 and Article 306.4 states “Neither civil nor criminal statutes of limitation apply to reports of cases of sexual abuse.”

By these rules we believe that NBAC’s report was mandatory and it doesn’t matter if this was 37 years or 37 minutes ago.

In terms of the appropriate action if date is not important, USA Swimming must investigate this and act on findings under the “Prospective Member” aspect of Article 304.2.

USA Swimming seems to be forgetting its own rules in an attempt to distance itself from yet another abuse incident. (Is that 657th this year?)

We’re waving the Bull Squeeze flag on this disappointing but predictable stance by Chuck Wielgus & Company

4 years 11 days ago

Ah, it’s the armchair-quarterback lawyer!

I’ll put it right out there. You are a twit. If you are going to start using legal terms, at least have the brains to be able to follow a premise to its conclusion.

You state their conclusion – that “Because USA Swimming (and therefore its Code of Conduct) was not in existence in 1975, the organization legally had no recourse in the matter. ”

Then you say “Not true”, and then spout several articles from their code of conduct.

Hey big guy, do you know how those work? Hey, do you? I’ll spell it out for you. Yes, there are not statutes on limitations – FROM WHEN THE ORGANIZATION WAS FOUNDED.

It is up to NBAC and the people who have knowledge of this to report it to the authorities. As a governing body, USA Swimming does not have control over something that happened before its inception.

Thank you, come again, please do come back when you learn how the law works.

4 years 13 days ago

What is most concerning is the accused coach of “alleged” sexual abuse did not leave NBAC until 2011. This reported abuse happened 37 years ago. What happened the other 36 years he was a coach? All the while, the vast majority, under USA Swimming. Is it not due diligence that USA swimming, with their Safe Sport program, delve further into this accusation? Do they not wonder if there are other “alleged” victims?

4 years 13 days ago

Precisely on point SwimFan!


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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