Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Does it all Mean: The Mark Schubert Suit

Yesterday morning, news broke that a former employee of Golden West Swim Club (GWSC) was suing that club's head coach, Mark Schubert, for wrongful termination. Taken alone, it's fairly big news in this sleepy post-Olympic September. Contained within the suit, however, are allegations so strong that in the word's of Tim Joyce, the author of the above-linked article, they "[are] likely to cause a domino effect at USA Swimming". I wish I could agree.

Having seen all I have in the last few years, I can pretty easily predict how this will play out. USA Swimming will say almost nothing, claim that saying nothing is somehow in the best interest of their leadership, and business as usual will continue. The insiders at USA Swimming, led by Emperor for Life Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, have withstood many blows that would have long since resulted in a house cleaning.

In the span of three years, Wielgus has survived two brutal nationally televised media appearances: the first at which he appeared totally indignant in an interview on ABC's 20/20. The second came on ESPN, and was bad enough that Wielgus has decided to blackout any credible media appearances since. In the following months it would be revealed that Wielgus had information on a serially sexually abusive coach (Andy King) and had asked that the information be kept confidential. In addition, he had allowed USA Swimming National Team Director Everett Uchiyama to resign after admitting to sexually abusing one of his former swimmers. He then sat by as one of his employees on an admittedly tiny USA Swimming paid staff, Pat Hogan, wrote an effusive recommendation for Uchiyama to work at a local country club. He defended Hogan as well, believing that Hogan had spontaneously developed a sexual relationship with an athlete he had coached just after her 18th birthday.

Fast forward to this year, when it was revealed that one of the most prominent swim coaches in the US, Rick Curl, had raped one of his swimmers repeatedly over years and later had her sign an agreement not to speak of it. The victim, Kellie Currin Davies, asserted that USA Swimming had knowledge for at least two years, and yet had avoided taking any action. Again, one would think that this revelation would cause a real shake up in Colorado Springs. Instead, Wielgus et al seem to still be firmly in charge, with the hearing on the matter pushed back beyond the Olympics and even last week's Aquatic Sports Convention.

Now, with the hearing approaching, comes this suit filed by Dia Rianda, The allegations within it are familiar to many but are present for the first time with someone willing to stake their claim that they are true. Among them:

-that Schubert avoided addressing inappropriate behavior by William Jewell, who Rianda states was out of line with young female swimmers. If that name sounds familiar, it's because it's the same Jewell who was at FAST when Sean Hutchison made his departure amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with one of his female swimmers. At the time of Hutchison's departure, Jewell presented himself as the one confronting Hutchison over improper behavior, while this suit makes similar allegations against Jewell. Joyce's article points to a power struggle between Schubert and Hutchison, which certainly changes my perception of what took place with Hutchison in December 2010.

-The more damning allegation Rianda makes is that Schubert, on his way out from USA Swimming, got paid a settlement to not discussing anything "confidential" about his time inside USA Swimming. This implies that there are secrets, including but not limited to the Curl debacle outlined above.

In the meantime, Colorado Springs seems content to put up it's usual wall of silence and wait for everything to go away. A day after news of the suit broke came news that USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton had run unopposed and won another term. Yes, you read that right, unopposed. I know for a fact that USA Swimming insiders will take this as a vote of confidence from the membership, after all Stratton has been a rubber stamp for the paid side of leadership since taking office. What tiny fraction of USA Swimming membership actually voted in this process? Why do they think interest in the most important volunteer position in the organization is so low? The answer is obvious.


  1. I agree with you Chris - Hopefully there will be a domino effect, but I doubt it.

    Most, if not all, of Dia's accusations are verbal (even documented proof doesn't seem to help). It will turn into a he said, she said. Parents who originally complained to Dia may refuse to get involved for fear of retaliation against their kids. If the police aren't involved, USA Swimming has repeatedly stated that the matter is out of their hands, etc. etc.

    1. EXACTLY - Dia is probably back in Northern California and if the families in Southern California complain their kids WILL be retaliated against.

  2. USA Swimming has to be careful about how they respond to this. There appears to be a growing body of evidence against them.

    Chuck Wielgus denied having any knowledge of Andy King during his June 2010 deposition. After being presented with an email showing this to be false, Mr. Wielgus' assistant found a dusty file they had somehow missed in discovery containing the same email. Three months later, Mr. Wielgus had specific memories of his thoughts about his daughters and his contact with John Morse after receiving the email he had supposedly forgotten.

    You can only get away with judicial amnesia or creative reframing in the face of hard evidence once or twice before we all start thinking perjury.

    Ms. Rianda would not risk this without having a very strong hand.

  3. The problem isn't just with a corrupt and morally bankrupt leadership: it is with a complacent membership that allows these monsters to continue to "serve". There WILL be a domino effect only if we demand it!

  4. The problem isn't just with a corrupt and morally bankrupt leadership: it is with a complacent membership that allows these monsters to continue to "serve". There WILL be a domino effect only if we demand it!

  5. Everett Uchiyama is a dirt bag. I swam for him at SoCal for many years. This is just sick.