Lawsuit alleges a conspiracy to shield coaches who engage in sexually abusive behavior and to protect the reputation of USA Swimming.
Online PR News – 19-April-2010 – – USA Swimming, Missouri Valley Swimming and the Kansas City Dolphins swim club have been named in a lawsuit filed today (Circuit Court of Jackson County, Case # 1016-CV11462) by the law firm of Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman on behalf of a then teenage swimmer who was subjected to inappropriate sexual contact by her swim coach. The lawsuit identifies the swimmer only as L.A.S. to protect her identity and avoid further harm.
Named in the lawsuit is the then teenage swimmer’s former Dolphins coach Robert Mirande and then Dolphins head coach, Aaron Dean, for allegedly taking no action after learning of the abuse. Dean left Kansas City shortly thereafter and was approved by USA Swimming to coach Occoquan Swimming in Northern Virginia. USA Swimming and Dean then approved the hiring of Mirande as his assistant coach. The two are still coaching at Occoquan Swimming.
Outlined in the lawsuit are Mirande’s acts of inappropriate sexual conduct towards the young swimmer. Using his coach / athlete position of power and authority over the young swimmer, Mirande’s conduct includes sexual grooming, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual abuse culminating in inappropriate sexual contact between the summer of 2006 and the winter of 2007.
USA Swimming is charged with failing to protect L.A.S. from the inappropriate sexual conduct by Mirande and failure to provide an environment that is safe and free from inappropriate sexual conduct from registered US Swimming coaches.
The complaint states that USA Swimming failed to enact and/or enforce appropriate policies, procedures, regulations, and requirements to prevent inappropriate sexual conduct by their registered US Swimming coaches.
“There are two sets of standards,” said Lynn Johnson, law firm of Shamberg, Johnson and Bergman. “Member clubs such as the Kansas City Dolphins are expected to follow the rules and regulations set forth by USA swimming or face sanctions, such as the rescinding of their US Swimming membership, prohibition from participating in US Swimming events, such as national qualifying and the Olympics, and the loss of liability insurance that is provided by US Swimming to the member swim clubs. Coaches meanwhile are governed by the “Code of Conduct”, which expressly prohibits sexual misconduct between coach and athlete. But time after time, coaches that sexually violate underage swimmers and the code are allowed to continue coaching,” states Johnson.
Mirande was hired by the Dolphins and Coach Aaron Dean in the summer of 2006. The complaint alleges that Mirande began sexually grooming the teenage victim, befriending her and establishing an emotional connection that would lead to the inappropriate sexual contact. Mirande, according to the complaint, also provided alcohol to the minor with the intent to coerce her and commit acts of inappropriate sexual conduct, all in clear violation of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct.
“US Swimming has a developed a culture over the last 30 years that overlooks and appears to condone the inappropriate sexual behavior of coaches and their underage swimmers,” said Johnson.
The lawsuit states that US Swimming, going back to the early to mid1980’s, has consistently “turned a blind eye” to inappropriate sexual relationships between its coaches and/or upper management and young female athlete member swimmers.
The complaint also alleges that USA Swimming engaged in a conspiracy to cover up Mirande’s actions. The lawsuit states that the conspiracy involved knowledge of pervasive problems regarding the inappropriate sexual conduct by registered US Swimming coaches in relationships with young female athlete member swimmers. The object of this conspiracy, according to the complaint, was to allow such inappropriate sexual conduct to continue, to shield registered US Swimming coaches who engaged in such conduct, and to protect the business and reputation interest of US Swimming.
The parents of the victim first informed Coach Dean of the abuse in the spring of 2008 and were in contact with the head of USA Swimming, Chuck Wielgus, over a 12 month period of time. Despite the knowledge USA Swimming continues to allow Mirande to coach young female swimmers.
USA Swimming at one point informed the victim’s parents that they could not and would not investigate the reported incident unless a member coach or the victim filed a report of the sexual misconduct and sexual abuse.
“USA Swimming has a history of walking away from tough safeguards, policies and procedures that would put an end to coach misconduct,” added Johnson. “US Swimming shows a complete indifference to and conscious disregard for the safety of plaintiff and other similarly situated young female athlete member swimmers.”
As the National Governing Body for the sport, US Swimming bears the ultimate responsibility for the conduct and administration of swimming in the United States.