The former athletes are in their 40s and 50s now, but the years spent in top swimming competitions still affects them. Not necessarily so much the swimming per se, but the sexual abuse they suffered as girls at the hands of well-known U.S. swim team coaches. Six women filed lawsuits against USA Swimming, the sport’s governing body, recently, alleging the organization enabled the sexual abuse of girls and young women for many years.
In California, a new law gives sexual abuse victims three years to file claims if the statute of limitations had previously expired. Although the abuse these women endured as teens occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, this new law allows them to file a lawsuit.
The women want to see an investigation into why the USA Swimming did little to nothing when they knew about the sexual abuse. They want those who covered for the coaches held accountable.
According to a 2018 investigation by the Southern California News Group, USA Swimming “repeatedly” missed opportunities to overhaul a culture where such abuse of swimmers by coaches was commonplace. At least 11 times, top USA Swimming officials decided against pursuing sexual abuse cases against coaches, even when direct complaints were made.
Even when similar allegations by different swimmers were made against the same coach, USA Swimming not only refused to take action but even awarded a club he owned $40k in grant money.
Barred for Life
One of the women named in the lawsuit, Tracy Palmero, was only 14 when national team director Everett Uchiyama began grooming her for sexual abuse. They started having sex two years after he began coaching her. Now 47, Palmero says Uchiyama took away the dreams she had of a normal dating life leading to marriage and children.
Uchiyama was eventually banned from the sport for sexual misconduct, but hid the decision as much as possible. He was later hired as a swim instructor at a country club based primarily on a USA Swimming official’s recommendation.
Uchiyama is not the only former USA Swimming Coach named in the lawsuit now barred for life from the sport due to his sexual activities. Mitch Ivey, once a U.S. Olympic and national team coach, was banned for life from Olympic sports. Suzette Moran, 53, alleges in a lawsuit that Ivey began making advances to her when she was just 16. She alleges Ivey first had unwanted sex with her in 1983, in an Indianapolis hotel room during the U.S National Championships.
In December of that year, Ivey got Moran pregnant and told her it was her problem. She underwent an abortion, and states in her lawsuit that as a result, she could not train for two months, affecting her eligibility for the 1984 Olympics.
At 17, she became engaged to Ivey. She broke the engagement in college when she found out he was involved with another underage swimmer. The relationship left her with PTSD, anxiety, and depression, according to the lawsuit. USA Swimming did not ban Ivey until 2013 when more allegations about his sexual relationships with teenage swimmers came to light.
In Prison for Child Molestation
One former coach is more than barred for life from his sport. Andrew King is currently serving a 40-year prison sentence for child molestation. One of the women in the lawsuit, Debra Grodensky, 51, says that King’s sexual abuse was “100 percent preventable.” She alleges King began sexually abusing her when she was only 12 and started having sex with her at 15. Grodensky says she is seeking cultural change along with mandated education on sexual abuse.
If you have been subjected to improper sexual conduct in or out of the sports industry by a colleague, coach or team owner, contact our sexual harassment lawyers at the Whistleblower Law Group today. We can be reached by phone at 888.249.6944, by email at [hidden email].