Facing sex allegations, swimming coach resigns from Colorado club

BRIAN GOMEZ Updated: May 26, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: May 26, 2010

The former national team director of USA Swimming resigned Wednesday as the director of aquatics at The Country Club of Colorado after Cheyenne Mountain Resort learned the Colorado Springs-based national governing body banned him for sexual misconduct.

Everett Uchiyama appeared late Tuesday on a list of 46 people who have been banned for life by the embattled NGB or who have permanently resigned their membership. His ban occurred Jan. 31, 2006 – four days after he left the USA Swimming post he had held for three years and a week after allegations of sexual abuse by one of his former swimmers.

Also on the list were Aaron Bartleson, a former age-group coach of the Falfins swim club that’s based in the Springs; Keith Anderson, who briefly coached at The Denver Athletic Club; and Joshua Delcore, a three-time state champion in the 50-meter freestyle at Cherry Creek who pled guilty to five counts of possession of child pornography in 2005.

The release of the banned list – called incomplete by attorneys of some former swimmers with lawsuits against USA Swimming – acts as the latest twist in a stream of controversy for the NGB, which has been accused of not properly screening coaches it certifies and not installing enough safeguards to keep underage athletes out of harm’s way.

Uchiyama’s accuser, a woman in her mid-30s, told The Associated Press she initially was sexually abused by Uchiyama as a 14-year-old when she competed under him at Southern California Aquatics in Los Angeles. She cut off the relationship in her mid-20s but didn’t file criminal charges against Uchiyama because the statute of limitations had expired.

“He would go to social gatherings with us,” the woman told The AP. “If the swimmers were going out to dinner or the swimmers were going out to the movies, he would come along. He was building that relationship with me. He would hang out a little bit afterward when everybody left. He started building that intimacy piece to the relationship.”

When the accusations from the anonymous woman surfaced, Uchiyama had made a name for himself in perhaps USA Swimming’s most high-profile coaching position. He started at the NGB as national team coordinator in 1999, and he was promoted to national team director in 2002. His wife, Helen, is a field services administrative assistant for the NGB.

The ban was “done in a confidential setting,” said attorney Robert Allard, who represents a 15-year-old California girl whose former coach was sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing his swimmers. “No one knew. Not even the board of directors of USA Swimming knew about the reasons behind this ban. It was a secret deal.”

“There are a lot of things absolutely wrong with that,” said attorney Jonathan Little, who represents a former Indiana University swimmer whose former coach got up to 35 years in prison for secretly videotaping his swimmers while they showered. “When you violate young children, you should be reported to law enforcement. Why wasn’t he reported?”

USA Swimming declined to comment on Uchiyama’s case, just listing the reason for his ban as “inappropriate sexual behavior.” In a statement, the NGB said it wants “to foster a safe and positive environment for athletes. … By putting the names out there for all, we hope that other youth sports organizations will benefit from this information.”

Uchiyama didn’t answer questions as he stepped out of his car and walked into the garage of his home near Colorado College. In a statement, The Country Club of Colorado said it “was previously unaware of the allegations. …  The Country Club of Colorado takes the welfare of its guests very seriously and took immediate action in regards to this matter.”

Falfins coach Anthony Boettcher said Bartleson, who spent 2007 to 2008 with the club, received his ban for “whatever occurred” during a four-year stint as aquatics director of West Coast Aquatics in San Jose, Calif. USA Swimming didn’t list a reason for his ban.

Boettcher disputes an item on the West Coast Aquatics Website that states Bartleson was “forced to resign because of a family emergency” in 2005. “That is not what he told me in his interview or on his resume,” Boettcher said, adding he regrets “the fact that I didn’t do a better job of checking his references or calling his previous employer.”

All Falfins coaches – there currently are nine – now undergo background checks, as well as reference checks and a check of their certifications. Falfins coach Mike Stromberg said instructors are “always on the deck with everybody. We don’t go other places and be with single kids. Everything is done on the deck, in front of everybody.”

Approached at her house in the Briargate area, Bartleson’s wife, Nathalie, part of the U.S. synchronized swimming team that claimed a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, indicated Bartleson had no comment. “I’m pretty sure he won’t want to talk to the press,” she said.

For more Olympic coverage, visit www.gazette.com/olympics. Check out our Olympics blog at http://gazetteolympics.freedomblogging.com

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