I represent several young Plaintiffs who are victims of sexual abuse by their USA Swimming coaches. With a team of skilled attorneys, we have filed lawsuits around the country to expose and improve the corrupt USA Swimming sexual molestation policies and compensate the innocent victims.
Deep Deceptions (2010) by Justine McCarthy details the sexual abuse scandal in Irish competitive swimming that was exposed in the early 1990’s. The story of sex abuse and molestation in Ireland’s swimming association is eerily similar to the current situation in USA Swimming. In the Emerald Isle, multiple coaches molested hundreds of young swimmers from at least the late 1960’s on.
The authoritarian culture of swimming in Ireland made it extremely taboo for athletes to question coaches. The national governing body, Swim Ireland, intentionally swept the problem under the rug and stifled the investigation of the few complaints that were made. Swimmers in Ireland believed that Mr. Gibney (who could barely swim himself) and his fellow coaches/molesters held the keys to their Olympic dreams. Parents did not even believe their own children when they alleged abuse; the parent boards that governed, sanctioned and endorsed swim clubs almost without exception backed the coach whenever he was accused.
Much like Ken Stopkotte and Mike Saltzstein in the US, the Irish swimming federation did move to discredit and harass the brave whistle blowers. Gary O’Toole, an Irish Olympian, finally came forward and revealed that George Gibney, the Irish Olympic coach, had not only attempted to molest him as a young swimmer, but also had molested dozens of young swimmers prior to him. Chalkie White, another former Irish international swimmer,(who also swam at Villanova University) came forward and publicly accused Mr. Gibney. Mr. O’Toole, now an orthopedic surgeon, was cast out by Irish swimming. During the Barcelona Olympics, Mr. Gibney criticized Mr. O’Toole on Irish public television and Mr. White was fired from his coaching position.
Any criminal who operates for decades without detection will be emboldened to press his luck. In Irish swimming it was an open secret that coaches such as Mr. Gibney sexually molested countless young swimmers. Just like in the US, where molester coaches are still coaching, Mr. Gibney and others continued to coach for decades, despite numerous allegations of sexual abuse. The arrogance with which molester coaches openly operated in Ireland mirrors the current culture in the United States where numerous coaches, well known in the swimming community for molesting young athletes, continue to coach.
The culture of competitive swimming needs to change. Presently in the US and across the world, swimmers of all levels are taught never to question their coaches. Parents and swimmers alike are drawn into an authoritarian system of insanely early morning practices and 5 day long swim meets. Parents, swimmers, coaches, and officials need to take a step back and decide what the proper place of sports is in a young person’s life. Swimming is a sport that should teach young athletes confidence, responsibility, and independence. Competitive sports should teach our youth that there is a direct correlation between their preparation and hard work, and their end results. You cannot fake the level of fitness and skill necessary to achieve top performances in the pool. Swimmers need to wake up and realize that they alone own their performances. No particular coach has the exclusive ability to maximize your potential. Swimmers: Question authority, it is for your own safety. If you or a loved one has been molested by a coach in any sport, please contact local law enforcement, and please feel free to give me a call or send me an email.