Monday, November 14, 2011

A Talk With Susan Woessner

After my last blog, I received a fairly surprising e-mail. It was from Susan Woessner, USA Swimming's athlete protection officer. Susan didn't reference the blog that I had just written drawing parallels between what's going on at Penn State right now and USA Swimming. I assumed that had to do with why she was writing. I was surprised that Susan contacted me because I had the impression that USA Swimming was walling itself off from the outside. Susan disagrees pretty strongly with that contention, and I think that her willingness to reach out is a direct attempt to change that perception. She's already started to do that.

I called Susan today. We both admitted up front that we were pretty nervous. Susan, although she didn't say why, was probably nervous because of how critical I have been of USA Swimming in this space. I was nervous because I am acutely aware of the fact that continuing to be critical of the most powerful people in swimming in the United States probably isn't great for my career.

I put Susan at ease by telling her that I wasn't a professional journalist. I'm also not in the business of putting her in a trap and doing my best to make her look bad. I've written as much in various comment sections, but I think that Susan is highly competent and I'm glad that her office exists. The fact that Susan is actively reaching out is evidence that she is passionate about what she's doing. She relayed that in our conversation today- she is eager to get a message out about all that is changing.

We only had about fifteen minutes to talk, so we agreed to chat again. I told Susan I had a lot of tough questions. As I said, I'm not interested in trapping her, so I'm going to give her questions ahead of time so she can prepare her response. If you have something you'd like to ask Susan, feel free to leave it in the comments section of this blog. I have a feeling where she would like the conversation to go, and I would be happy to report on some really positive stuff in this space. At the same time, there are some tough questions that deserve an answer, and I hope she can provide those. Check back later this week for a recap of my conversation with Susan.


  1. Susan Woessner's time would be better spent reaching out to swimming's victims. She seems to routinely neglect to do that. Perhaps if she finds the requirements of her job too taxing she could just lock herself in a closet and actually read the USA Swimming Rules & Regulations.

    See November 15th post on!

  2. I have a few questions for Ms. Woessner:

    1. Federal Laws require USA Swimming to establish and maintain provisions for the swift and equitable resolution of all disputes involving any of its members as stated in the USA Swimming rules and regulations and required LSC bylaws.

    What's USA Swimmings definition of "SWIFT"?

    2. Article 403.2 of USA Swimming Rules and Regulations states that the National Board of Review can handle matters in which the NBR determines that a fair hearing will not be held quickly enough at the LSC Board of Review level to do justice to the affected parties.

    My family waited 10 months for the first hearing (with a fixed hearing panel) and is still waiting for the rehearing 7 months later.

    What does the National Board of Review consider "quick enough"?

    3. Mr. Duncan, Attorney, published a handbook disseminated by USA Swimming concerning the formation and operation of nonprofit corporations for youth activities. Mr. Duncan was the presiding officer at the hearing.

    Shouldn't the resources be used to help the victims and not the abusers?

    4. I went to USA Swimming for HELP! I'm not an attorney, I had no knowledge of corporate law. I do know when things do not make sense. In the past 18 months,
    I discovered that State and Federal Laws had been violated.
    I discovered that the Attorney Generals office takes complaints on non-profits.
    I discovered that "if a crime has been committed, file a report with local law enforcement or the District Attorneys office".
    I discovered that corporate code violations are misdemeanor CRIMES!

    Why didn't USA Swimming suggest I file a police report?

  3. While I think it's commendable that she's reading your blog, and answering, but I have to agree with the first post, is defense the best use of her time. Is it a PR position, or an enforcement position? Is it both? I have to admit, I don't know.

    I also wonder if giving the questions ahead of time is a good idea. Not that you're trying to "trap" her, but will she be the only one looking at the questions, or will a staff be deciding how to shape the responses? Call me skeptical.

  4. Thanks for all the comments so far.

    Glenn, it was my idea to give the questions ahead of time. I don't want to ambush Susan.

    When I spoke to her on the phone she was frustrated by a lack of communication and knowledge about what her office is doing. I will let the readers judge whether that is just PR. We are talking today.

  5. When the LSC includes an attorney on e-mails to USA Swimming and the complainant, should it be assumed that the attorney was brought in to help protect the LSC and not the victim?

    Is it fair and equitable to have an attorney as the presiding officer who has STRONG ties with USA Swimming and the LSC?

    Does a "fair hearing panel include a member who was part of a protest filed"?

    When information is submitted pertaining to illegal and unethical behavior and the LSC/USA Swimming will not act, what message is being sent? The kids don't matter so think twice before voicing a concern!

  6. When protests involve LSC officers and Board of Review members, shouldn't that be a red flag warning that a "fair hearing will not be held quickly enough" at the LSC level?

  7. I will be interested to read more about the Q & A. I for one have found Susan very helpful when she has worked on things like entries for nationals, jrs, etc.

    However, as I sat in the Athlete Protection Committee meeting at convention, I couldn't help but feel as though she is a bit close minded in her new role. I asked a question about the new requirements that are coming down the line for officials and other volunteers. My concern being that perhaps we are driving them away. She responded by responding along the lines of "Well this is for athlete protection. Your for athlete protection aren't you?"

    I am, of course, for protecting athletes, but I am also for maintaining, and even growing, our volunteer base. The way she put it, I was either for it or against it. Very disconcerting.