Featured Commentary: Crime and Punishment

Amanda Cox insists that she has done nothing wrong. Her lawyer says that she has fulfilled any legal or moral obligations to her swimmers and owes the sport nothing more. If this view is shared by USA Swimming we will understand just how short our leadership falls in backing claims of having "the flagship protection program" in Olympic sports. If you haven't heard of Amanda Cox you are not alone. USA Swimming has been remarkably silent about her existence despite Coach Cox providing the wink and nod to one of the most public displays of youth sports pedophile culture in the past few years.

In 2009 Amanda Cox, the head coach at Maverick Aquatics (Lafayette, IN), showed us that the good ol' boy system of sex abuse tolerance isn't just for men. Ms. Cox participated in a shocking exchange of text messages with fellow coach Chris Wheat over his sexual relationship with a 14-year-old swimmer. After confirming the identity of the young girl, Ms. Cox's response was not an immediate call to the police or USA Swimming. Instead, Amanda Cox laughingly texted this to Whe...

"...good catch. now put her back in the lake and chalk it up as an experience, smile about it occasionally and upgrade to college..."

This is far from a professional or responsible reaction to the rape of a young child. Ms. Cox's callous and insensitive text is mind blowing. USA Swimming had no way to avoid placing Chris Wheat on the 'Banned List' following his conviction but they have done nothing about the actions of Amanda Cox.

USA Swimming has both a responsibility and the necessary authority to act against Ms. Cox. The Code of Conduct directly addresses situations like the Wheat/Cox child sex failure.

304.2 Any member or prospective member of USA Swimming may be denied membership, censured, placed on probation, suspended for a definite or indefinite period of time with or without terms of probation, fined or expelled from USA Swimming if such member violates the provisions of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct, set forth in 304.3, or aids, abets or encourages another person to violate any of the provisions of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct.

Simple and clear. Aiding or abetting carries the same penalty as a violation of the Code of Conduct. Chris Wheat's criminal sexual behavior with a child merited his expulsion from the sport. Amanda Cox's joking about the rape of a 14-year-old girl merits the same.

The failure of USA Swimming to enforce this very important rule is not an aberration. Just up the road from USA Swimming Headquarters, lack of standards and supervision has resulted in nearly the perfect storm. After parting with a coach they dubbed "the Dictator", the Woodmoor Waves (Monument, CO) selected a head coach who was apparently fired from his previous job for sexual harassment of young lifeguards. Woodmoor then added his drinking buddy, a self-proclaimed rock-star/porn-star party machine with a graphic and obscene web presence. Following the predictable implosion and departure of these two, the Waves had a brush with a disgraced judge whose plea deal narrowly avoided rape and stalking charges. The current deck-walker at Woodmoor appears to have failed at big teams on two continents before finding himself in the woods near Monument, Colorado... where swim coaches go to die.

We introduced you to Chuck Baechler last week. Coaches Steve Fair, Sean Coffey, Ross Hedrick and Rob Blundell will be the subject of future articles. Coffey and Fair have already achieved local notoriety with mentions by Irv Muchnick (ConcussionInc.net) and Splash of Truth (USSwimnScandal.com). It is the individual behind Woodmoor's parade of uniquely qualified coaches that we'd like you to meet. Brian Donahue is a USA Swimming Member (an official) and a long serving board member at Woodmoor. After failing to identify every flavor of miscreant seeking to supervise children, Mr. Donahue has actively and repeatedly attempted to conceal these individuals from parents on his team and USA Swimming itself. Donahue is the poster child for a rules enforcement renaissance from 1 Olympic Plaza.

Inept though he is, even Chuck Wielgus wouldn't allow an individual guilty of assault involving sexual misconduct to coach children in bathing suits. There seems only one rational conclusion: After being informed of Chuck Baechler's sexual indiscretion by fellow board member Terriann Snediker, Donahue and the rest of the Waves Board neglected to inform Susan Woessner or anyone else of Chuck Baechler's sexual and criminal past.

As with Amanda Cox, Brian Donahue and the Waves' failure fits both the spirit and letter of the aiding or abetting section of the Code of Conduct. Brian Donahue's inaction (despite clear knowledge) enabled a troubled individual to obtain employment as a swim coach with another club. This blatant disregard of USA Swimming's Code of Conduct and membership standards is inexcusable. While there is no indication that Baechler's activities are ongoing, similar failures to report have allowed abusers to move from place to place and victim to victim. Charles Arabas' victims at Northern Arizona University were the result of nearly identical inaction and neglect. Passing the trash places every child down the line at potential risk.

USA Swimming makes a point of singling out their critics no matter how right that person may be. Ken Stopkotte received a two year national and five year state ban for entering bad times into the USA Swimming database. The clock component of those times was accurate. Stopkotte's punishment seemed more a response to his honest representation of USA Swimming's sex problems on 20/20 and ESPN than to the fairly common and almost universally ignored disregard of DQ slips. On SwimBrief.net, Chris DeSantis poetically dubbed Stopkotte's offense "falsifying times while criticizing USA Swimming." Despite their disregard of intentionally fictitious times in other cases, USA Swimming removed Coach Stopkotte from the sport for half a decade unless he elected to move from his home state and completely start from scratch.

Amanda Cox and Brian Donahue risked the safety of children out of either apathy or a desire to preserve relationships and the facade of their reputations. Ken Stopkotte's clerical efforts pale by comparison. If justice or proportionality are any consideration, USA Swimming should immediately suspend both of these individuals from all swimming related duties pending formal hearings and their likely inclusion on the 'Banned for Life' list. Anything less would be a joke and a statement that swimmer safety has never been a concern for the top leadership at USA Swimming.

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