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USA Swimming releases review of safe sport program

January 27, 2014 - 11:07pm

An independent review of USA Swimming’s safe sport program paid for by the national governing body is recommending that 39 changes be made to better protect underage athletes from predatory coaches.

The report released Monday was done by Victor Vieth, executive director of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. USA Swimming paid $25,000 for the review that began last August. Its safe sport program started in 2010 after numerous reports of coaches having inappropriate relationships with underage athletes.

Among the recommendations: require all coaches, officials or adult members of USA Swimming to report abuse of any kind; allow reliable hearsay if a victim is unwilling or unable to testify; conduct a baseline study to uncover the extent of abuse in USA Swimming; and establish a victim’s assistance fund to cover counseling and other expenses.

Vieth said he reviewed 150 files involving sexual abuse, noting that one-third of those were not pursued by USA Swimming.

“There are remaining weaknesses in the system,” Vieth said on a conference call, adding that unless they are addressed athletes would continue to be vulnerable to predators.

An eight-person task force was named to review the findings and make recommendations for implementation. The task force will discuss its findings with the governing body’s board of directors on May 3.

USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton said the board would be asked to prioritize the 39 suggested changes.

“Some of these can be implemented almost immediately,” he said. “Some of them will require changes to our current rules and those do require the approval of our house of delegates that meets once a year in September.”

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