Unless these issues are handled at the local level where among parents, protection of their children is paramount, they will flow into the system which USA Swimming and other national sport governing organizations answer to and sometimes protect their member coaches. Unless there is a complete leadership and cultural change in USA Swimming that mandates complaints to be investigated and actions to remove coaches at every level, first and foremost the local level, the current model of reporting to USA Swimming will continue to fail. Vieth reported that at least one-third of the 150 reports of sexual or other abuse were not investigated. There is no victim relief in these cases. No one at USA Swimming can say that these victims were responded to in sensitive and sympathetic way. .
The same style that develops an athlete to be an Olympic Gold Medalists is often the same coaching style that brings abuse of all kinds. Unless we can understand this issue as a sports/coaching style and interrelated power structure issue, then any investigation by an outside agency will continue to miss the mark.
The power dynamic of striving for an Olympic Gold and the coach holding the keys to that kingdom will always produce a “coach is most important” resolution rather than an “athlete first” platform. This report should be considered formally acted upon by athletes and parents rather than USA Swimming coach members who have a conflict of interest. Give every athlete a vehicle to have a voice. USA Swimming must listen, learn and change to respond to the athletes’ rather than coaches’ needs.
If we continue to address this topic like there are few and randomly encountered child pedophiles in sports rather than the very real possibility that the lack of policing in youth sports invites pedophiles to pursue their prurient interests, then we are doing a disservice to every athlete who is striving to be the best athlete they can be and every parent who trusts USA Swimming and their local club programs to protect their children.
It’s well past time for the Executive Director of USA Swimming to take responsibility for allowing this unsafe culture to thrive. A new leadership team is required, one that empowers every local club to break up the power dynamic at the local level. Without enforcement and code of conduct mechanisms in place like that proposed by the Safe4Athletes system, then all the Vieth report recommendations are meaningless.