As preteen girls and teenagers, they were athletes who swam competitively. Today, as women in their 40s and 50s, they have filed sex abuse lawsuits against U.S.A. Swimming alleging that the organization failed to protect them decades ago from sexual predators who were coaches.
The suits also named as defendants a pair of former coaches, as well as swimming clubs and swimming associations.
Debra Grodensky, 51, told the New York Times that her “sexual abuse was 100 percent preventable.” She is a plaintiff in one of the three lawsuits filed in California under a law that allows people to file sexual abuse claims for which the statute of limitations had expired.
Grodensky said she was first abused by former coach Andrew King when she was just 12 years old. King is now serving a 40-year prison sentence for child molestation.
Plaintiff Tracy Palmero, 46, says that former coach Everett Uchiyam began abusing her 30 years ago when she was 16. She told the Times that the law allowing the lawsuits created “an avenue of closure” for her and the other plaintiffs.
Former U.S. Olympic and national team coach Mitch Ivey was also named in one of the civil suits. He, Uchiyam and King have all been banned for life from Olympic sports by U.S.A. Swimming and the U.S. Center for SafeSport (an organization tracking abuse in Olympic sports).
Back in the early 1990s, Ivey was the University of Florida swimming coach. Despite the team’s competitive successes in his three seasons, he was released by the university after allegations surfaced of sexual harassment and intimate relationships with team members.
He was banned for life by U.S.A. Swimming in 2013 based on evidence of sexual misconduct that included abuse.
We will have more on the recent lawsuits in an upcoming blog post.