Featured Commentary: The Monster You Don't Know

There are things that keep USA Swimming's leadership up at night. We'd like to think they lose sleep over people and issues related to the protection of innocent children. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. The monsters in USA Swimming's closet are things they don't want you to know about.

USA Swimming has started banning coaches who are convicted of child sex crimes. They have no other choice. They hold up the Banned List and say, "See. We're keeping your kids safe!" By the time USA Swimming acts, it is already too late. Not one of the victims gets a rewind and erase of the abuse they have suffered.

Penn State's attempt to hide Jerry Sandusky shows the lengths an organization will go to in protecting their image, jobs and revenue stream. Sandusky, who university officials knew to be a threat to young boys, was allowed to continue running his charitable foundation in the offices and showers of that very campus.

USA Swimming has acted to bury similar allegations on several occasions. National Team Director Everett Uchiyama was removed after a past relationship with an underage swimmer became known. He was ushered out of his office with a hasty cover-up agreement. Pat Hogan, Director of Club Development for USA Swimming, provided a glowing recommendation for Mr. Uchiyama to the Country Club of Colorado. No disclosure of Everett Uchiyama's illicit past was made. Pat Hogan attempted to deny knowledge of this recommendation until he was confronted with the actual document.

(Uchiyama's outing, the sordid swimming politics involved, and USA Swimming's failure to grant Everett Uchiyama a Board of Review will be the topic for another article.)

Pat Hogan is a story himself. Mr. Hogan's first wife was a swimmer he coached from when she was 16. According to Mr. Hogan, he began having a relationship with her at some point "after she was 17" (under oath) or 18 (to the NY Times). They married when she was 20 but subsequently divorced. (The rumored reason for the divorce we'll leave for you to Google.) Pat Hogan informed Swimming's Executive Director Chuck Wielgus about this prohibited relationship only after it came up in a legal deposition for yet another USA Swimming sex abuse case.

Though USA Swimming strictly prohibits coach/swimmer relationships (except under the most unusual circumstances), Chuck Wielgus took no action against Pat Hogan. Our Executive Director went so far as to tell the New York Times he supported Mr. Hogan, "There was nothing wrong with that relationship. I'm O.K. with it". He then declared to the court that "...knowing the sort of individual that I -- that he is and the sort of value system he lives by, I felt there was no reason to -- I appreciated what he told me, and I felt there was no -- I had no cause to do anything more." Is it troubling that the leader of our sport dismissed this inappropriate and prohibited relationship with a simple "I'm O.K. with it"?

As bad as these two instances are, USA Swimming has had worse. One incident in particular may prompt legal questions. We project USA Swimming answering them with some variant of "we don't remember".

Pat Hogan's predecessor as Director of Club Development was a man by the name of Will Colebank. Will Colebank and everything related to his existence disappeared from USA Swimming Headquarters with a speed that defies imagination. No explanation of his departure was made to the bulk of the staff. There was no publicity. He doesn't appear on the Banned List. Will Colebank appears to be USA Swimming's 'He Who Must Not Be Named'.

You can easily find Will Colebank's information on the internet and in public records. Will Colebank became a middle school teacher shortly after leaving USA Swimming. He likely received a stellar recommendation from 1 Olympic Plaza. The teaching job terminated when Mr. Colebank was arrested for child pornography. He was not turned in by his school or USA Swimming. Will Colebank was turned in by his own adult son. Ultimately, Mr. Colebank was convicted of sexual exploitation of a child (2009) and promotion of obscenity to a minor (2008).

The Rick Curl case has been referred to as the worst kept secret in swimming. Within the halls of USA Swimming and among its employees at the time, the Will Colebank cover-up holds nearly the same status. No one wants to talk about or address the things they know USA Swimming should have done. This institutional failure to deal with issues has allowed the child sex abuse problem to spread like a disease until, today, it is too big to solve without completely starting over.

Questions will be asked of USA Swimming about Will Colebank. "We don't remember" or "nothing to see here, move along" is how USA Swimming will likely answer. That won't make any child safer. Just as they did when Will Colebank was fired, USA Swimming's leaders will act to save their individual hides and paychecks until they are forced to do otherwise.

Ask these questions of your leadership. Expect nothing by way of answer except denial and amnesia.

Ask these questions of yourself. Don't fail to answer and act.

Featured Video

Inside USA Swimming
as aired on ABC's 20/20

Swimming Exposed recommends

Deep Deception: Ireland's Swimming Scandals
by Justine McCarthy