During the teleconference today, responding to Victor Vieth and team’s independent review of the USA Swimming SafeSport program, Executive Director Chuck Wielgus reiterated that USA Swimming commissioned Mr. Vieth to review the Safe Sport Program so that USAS could “get better and eradicate sex abuse in swimming.” To this end, USAS provided Mr. Vieth and his staff complete access without any parameters to all files and people “inside and outside the sport.”
Mr. Vieth confirmed this unfettered access and told us that his only directive was to complete an independent assessment of the Safe Sport Program and to locate weaknesses within it. His review of Safe Sport and the organization’s practices prior to the implementation of Safe Sport in 2010 covered a lot of ground. For his study, review, and written report with assessments and recommendations spanning a four-month period, Mr. Vieth was paid $25,000.
Mr. Vieth and his team of three from the Gunderson National Child Protection Training Center read thousands of documents. Fifty-seven witnesses connected with swimming were interviewed, including, among others, coaches, five survivors of coach abuse, parents of survivors, attorneys who have appeared before the National Board of Review, and a USOC representative. One hundred and fifty sex abuse cases were studied. The team also reviewed the following documents:
Safe Sport website, handbook, and other printed program materials;
USA Swimming’s Code of Conduct (past and present);
- Safe Sport educational materials including online training, webinars, articles, and presentations;
- The files of all banned and suspended coaches, officials, and athletes in the history of USA Swimming;
- The files of all closed 26 USA Swimming investigations involving allegations of sexual or other misconduct against a child;
- The audio tapes of 20 National Board of Review hearings in which a coach, official or athlete received a suspension or ban from the sport;
- Various documents provided by parties interviewed as part of this assessment; and
- Media and other reports of sexual abuse or other misconduct committed by a USA Swimming member coach, official or athlete.
The team also attended swim practices at small, medium, and large swim clubs in three different states. There were extensive conversations with former members of USA Swimming’s Board of Directors and Safe Sport personnel. Mr. Vieth states in his report that of all the information reviewed and studied “the voice of survivors stands at the forefront.”
USA Swimming asked for recommendations to improve upon the Safe Sport Program. Mr. Vieth has provided 39 such recommendations, which we will cover in detail over the next couple of days. After presentation of the report to the Board of Directors on Saturday, the Board appointed an eight-person task force to review the report’s findings.
At the May 3 Board meeting, this task force will present its suggestions on how to best implement Mr. Vieth’s 39 recommendations. The task force is chaired by Jay Thomas, with members Dave Anderson, Rachel Stratton-Mills, Cecil Gordon, Megan Ryther, John Morse, Malia Arrington, and one other outside member that will be named later this week. Mike Unger, Assistant Executive Director, and Susan Woessner, Director of Safe Sport, will serve as staff liaisons.
Each of these peoples’ credentials:
- Jay Thomas, USA Swimming & FINA open water swimming official, 2009 recipient of Glen S. Hunter Award
- Dave Anderson, co-head coach of Schroeder YMCA Swim Team (Wisconsin)
- Rachel Stratton-Mills, head coach of Asphalt Green Aquatics (New York)
- Dr. Cecil Gordon, M.D., gynecologist, USA Swimming official, former member of USA Swimming diversity committee
- Megan Ryther, former open water National Team swimmer, Susan Woessner’s teammate at Indiana, Indianapolis-based attorney, member of USA Swimming Olympic International Operations Committee and Steering Committee
- John Morse, USA Swimming general counsel (not the head coach of Nashville Aquatic Club with the same name)
- Malia Arrington, USOC Director of Ethics and Safe Sport, attorney
Mr. Stratton explained that some of these 39 cannot be implemented immediately as they will require legislative action at the September House of Delegates meeting. Mr. Wielgus affirmed that implementation is a “strategic planning process” and that USAS is committed to make the Safe Sport Program the model for all sports.
Mr. Vieth’s report provides valuable and viable steps for strengthening the Safe Sport Program through education for and empowerment of our swimmers and our families and our coaches. The report also covers additional and improved methods to help reduce and prevent incidences of abuse. Obtaining this report is another step in eliminating abuse in swimming.
As Mr. Vieth observed, “We encountered many people fully dedicated to the proposition that USA Swimming and its members can never go too far in protecting the 320,000 children in its charge. We hope this report will speed the dawning of that day.” And so do we.