Six women have sued USA Swimming over allegedly covering up actions of sexual abuse from their coaches when they were teenagers, according to documents from civil lawsuits filed in California courts.
The lawsuits, which reference instances of sexual abuse from the 1980s, claim that USA Swimming protected the coaches, enabling them to continue their predatory behavior, the New York Times reported. The coaches and the women’s former swim club were named as additional defendants in the lawsuit, according to the New York Times.
“My sexual abuse was 100% preventable,” Debra Grodensky, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, said in a statement. She has said that she was sexually abused multiple times by her former coach, Andrew King, who is currently serving 40 years in prison for child molestation.
Two other cases were filed on behalf of Tracy Palmero and Suzette Moran against USA Swimming and their former coaches.
Palmero claimed that her former coach, Everett Uchiyama, continually abused her, and said that filing the suit was “an avenue for closure” in a June 10 news conference. She also named Mitch Ivey, a former decorated coach, as a defendant. Both have been barred from USA Swimming for life, but have not been convicted.
Federal prosecutors have opened investigations into whether it actively sought to cover up athletes’ claims, and whether Chuck Wielgus, the longtime director of the organization, enabled patterns of abuse behavior, the Times reported. He died of cancer in 2017.
“Chuck Wielgus was the poster boy bad guy within this organization,” said Robert Allard, one of the lawyers assisting the plaintiffs, in a statement to the Times.
USA Swimming said in a statement Wednesday that the organization remains “committed to providing a safe environment and a positive culture for all its members,” but to Grodensky, the response is insufficient.
“I want cultural change and mandated education within this great sport, so that child swimmers can thrive without abuse,” she said.
The recent lawsuits were filed after a new California law allowed for a three-year window for plaintiffs to file cases of sexual abuse that had previously expired under the statute of limitations.
The scandal involving USA Swimming is one of many in a sport which has struggled to protect its athletes. King, Uchiyama, and Ivey are not the first high profile coaches to be accused of sexual abuse.