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USA Swimming Faces Major Sexual Abuse Allegations

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 23, 2010 9:45 AM

A suit filed late in the day on March 11 brought major allegations about widespread sexual abuse of young swimmers in San Jose, CA, were the case was filed, and throughout USA Swimming. The suit claims that since 1993, at least 32 swim coaches at clubs around the country allegedly abused their swimmers. This list includes San Jose swim coach Andrew King, who was sentenced in January to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing girls he coached.

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, the Complaint alleges that the way USA swimming handled coaches like King was eerily reminiscent of the way the Catholic Church allegedly moved priests with complaints of abuse from posting to posting without resolving any of the allegations. According to the current and past investigation by the Mercury News, King was able to move from swim club to swim club with rumors and allegations of his own improper behavior streaming behind him. The current suit seeks unspecified damages against King, San Jose Aquatics, Pacific Swimming (the West Coast branch of USA Swimming) and USA Swimming.  

Among the allegations in the Complaint are those by plaintiff, and 1972 Olympic gold medal swimmer, Deena Deardurff Schmidt. Schmidt alleges that she was repeatedly molested by a "legendary" swim coach and her allegations and complaints were all but ignored. According to the complaint, years later, that same coach was considered for inclusion in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. On learning this, Schmidt reiterated her allegations of sexual abuse against him, but he was elected to the Hall of Fame regardless.

The Mercury News reports that the amended Complaint also refers to several unnamed top officials at USA Swimming who became involved with teenage swimmers, married and divorced them a short time later. Representatives of San Jose Aquatics have not commented to the paper about allegations at this time. USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus told the AP on Friday that he takes "great exception" to the claims.

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