Attorneys for two swimmers who claim they were molested by their club coaches scoffed at the timing of USA Swimming’s plan to put an end to sexual misconduct that has cast a cloud over the Colorado Springs-based national governing body.
Lynn Johnson, representing a 21-year-old Kansas woman who sued USA Swimming on Monday, called the seven-point plan, unveiled Wednesday, a “public-relations gimmick,” and Robert Allard, the lawyer of a 15-year-old California girl whose former coach got 40 years in prison in January, deemed the NGB’s proposed policies “too little, too late.”
The plan, announced in a letter to 300,000 members from USA Swimming president Jim Wood and executive director Chuck Wielgus, states the NGB will implement more rigid guidelines regarding appropriate behavior by coaches, streamline the system for reporting sexual abuse and review the NGB’s background screening program and code of conduct.
At least 36 USA Swimming-certified coaches have received lifetime bans from the NGB the past 10 years because of sexual misconduct, according to an ABC News investigation that aired this month, and USA Swimming has been named in at least three other lawsuits stemming from allegations of sexual abuse by coaches against underage female athletes.
“Do you think at one meeting, on a Sunday night, by teleconference, they can really put together a viable, state-of-the-art, model program that will really prevent sexual abuse in the future?” Johnson said, referring to the emergency teleconference convened Sunday by the 32-member USA Swimming board, which will meet again May 1 to discuss the plan.
Allard said, “Real change starts with firing the coaches and USA Swimming employees that have had any type of sexual relations with their swimmers.” He said the NGB’s plan doesn’t “begin to address the real problem, which is a culture that condones the immoral and illegal behavior of coaches that engage in improper sexual conduct.”
On Thursday, Johnson sent a three-page letter to Holme Roberts & Owen partner Richard Young, the outside general counsel for USA Swimming, on behalf of his client, Allard’s client and former Indiana University swimmer Brooke Taflinger, who also has sued USA Swimming, offering “expert professionals” to draft a viable plan to stop sexual abuse.
In the letter, Johnson insists “USA Swimming not adopt any purported sexual misconduct prevention program” without consulting with his firm’s experts. He wrote the NGB needs “more than a marketing gimmick and talking points, but rather a program that is designed to prevent young swimmers from being sexually abused by their coaches.”
For more Olympic coverage, visit www.gazette.com/olympics