By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Trevor Bach
By Kyle Munzenrieder
It was only because she spoke up that investigators found King to have abused at least 15 girls over 30 years, including a 14-year-old whom he got pregnant and who had an abortion. In 2010, King pleaded no contest and is serving 40 years in prison.
Attorney Bob Allard remembers getting a phone call from an alleged victim of King's shortly after the coach was arrested. "It was a small, little claim against a small, little club," Allard remembers, "but it quietly mushroomed into a full-scale, nationwide cover-up not only of Andy King but many, many other coaches who had molested children over the past decades. The more we looked into the Andy King matter — and saw some of the lies and misrepresentations by the higher-ups at USA Swimming — the more we realized this was the beginning of something much larger."
Allard has since filed more than a dozen lawsuits against USA Swimming, "but that number is infinitesimally insignificant," he says, "compared to the number of calls I have received from people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who claim to have been abused."
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The scandal blew up in 2010, when 20/20, an investigative ABC news show, revealed that over the prior decade, 36 swim coaches had received lifetime bans from USA Swimming.
Simon Chocron had been found to have had sexual relations with a 15-year-old male and a 16-year-old female at the Jacksonville private school where he taught. He fled to Spain but was arrested when he showed up to compete in the world championships. He then headed for Venezuela, which refused to extradite him. Brian Hindson of Indiana had secretly videotaped female swimmers, some as young as 12, in the shower. In 2008, he was sentenced to 33 years. The list went on.
When confronted on camera by 20/20, USA Swimming's executive director, Chuck Wielgus, who reportedly draws a $908,432 salary and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale this month, brushed off the cases as "bad apples" among his 12,000 coaches. Then producers confronted him with audiotape of a call in which Wielgus could be heard saying, "This happens almost every week. We get calls at the office. I get informed about it."
In the wake of the bad publicity, USA Swimming set up a "Safe Sport" department to strengthen its procedures to prevent abuse. Public relations director Karen Linhart says that since the program's inception in 2010, "USA Swimming has trained 35,000 nonathlete members in abuse prevention" and "expanded its then-existing and robust background check program to screen all nonathlete members on a monthly basis."
The organization requires "the reporting of sexual misconduct by any member," she says, adding that USA Swimming has a lower tolerance than law enforcement and "does not require an arrest/conviction to move forward with an investigation. USA Swimming can and has sanctioned members for noncriminal behavior that violates its code of conduct."
Yet the abuse hasn't stopped. Since 2010, USA Swimming has published the names of coaches banned for misconduct. Four years ago, the list totaled 36. Now it has almost tripled — to more than 100.
To cover just a few of the Florida coaches:
• In 2009, Roberto Caragol — who coached alongside Alex Pussieldi at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale and served as chairman of Florida Gold Coast Swimming — admitted possessing child pornography and having sex with minors. He is serving a 12-year federal prison sentence in Miami.
• In 2010, a Central Florida swim coach, Jason Michael Lear, was convicted of committing sexual acts on a 12-year-old.
• In 2012, Bryan Woodward was busted To Catch a Predator-style in Osceola County after he met what he thought was a 14-year-old girl online. He traveled to meet her for sex, believing her parents were away on a cruise. He brought M&M's. He is currently a registered sex offender and is incarcerated.
• Mitch Ivey was banned last year, even though he was fired back in 1993 from the University of Florida after a swimmer reported being seduced at age 17 and having an abortion. She married him at age 18 but divorced him six months later when she caught him with another 17-year-old.
Nancy Hogshead Makar, now 52, was harassed by Ivey in Gainesville and grew up to become senior director of advocacy for the Women's Sports Foundation, based in Jacksonville. She explains the complicating factors that make it difficult for alleged victims to come forward: "A good, effective molester will make it feel good. They'll convince the person this is a relationship, that they're in love. There were probably parts of the molestation that were enjoyable. All of those things are exactly why molesters get away with it over and over again. The victims keep quiet. They impose a cone of shame over them that in some cases lasts a lifetime."
She says that she tried working with USA Swimming to help the group enforce its Safe Sport policy but that staff lied to her and she eventually went to the U.S. Olympics Committee to strong-arm swimming to adopt a rule prohibiting all romantic and sexual relationships between athletes and coaches.
Because many alleged victims are juveniles and because cases are sometimes settled privately and include confidentiality statements, it's impossible to get a complete picture of the extent of the abuse. Maryland Coach Rick Curl seduced a 13-year-old swimmer in the 1980s and paid her family a $150,000 settlement to keep silent, then continued to coach.