According to civil lawsuits filed in two different California Courts last week, six former athletes filed suit against U.S.A. Swimming this month, stating the national governing body for the sport failed to protect them from coaches who sexually abused them when they were pre-teens and teenagers.
The six women, now in their 40’s and 50’s, claim the organization enabled coaches to sexually assault girls and young women for years. Named defendants in the civil suits include U.S.A. Swimming, its Southern and Northern California associations, and former U.S. Olympic and national team coach Mitch Ivey, U.S. national team director Everett Uchiyama, and former coach Andrew King.
One of the plaintiff’s, now in her 50’s, stated she was abused in the 1980s by her former coach, Andrew King. According to the court documents filed, the plaintiff was 12 years old when King began sexually assaulting her at U.S.A. Swimming sanctioned meets, 15 years old when King had sexual intercourse with her for the first time at the 1984 U.S. Championships in Fort Lauderdale, and 16 years old when King, then 37, asked her to marry him. King was convicted of 20 counts of felony child molestation in 2010 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Some of his victims were as young as 10 years old.
The suits allege U.S.A. Swimming, including former executive director Chuck Wielgus, and other top officials, were aware of Ivey, Uchiyama, and King’s predatory behavior but refused to address it, resulting in a culture of abuse that exposed dozens of underage swimmers to sexual abuse and harassment. Survivors maintain that this culture continues to exist within U.S.A. Swimming.
Federal prosecutors are also investigating whether U.S.A. Swimming tried to hide sex abuse claims within its sport, and continue to look into the program and its top officials, including Wielgus. However, the civil court documents filed last week assert there was a cover-up within the organization that went far beyond Wielgus.
At the press conference last week, the plaintiffs and other survivors stated they hope this lawsuit will “push [USA Swimming] to mandate prevention, education, and training for its coaches, officials, volunteers, athletes, and parents” and “make this sport safer for all children.”
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of the negligent acts or omissions of another, contact the experienced attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner at (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.