June 5,2014(ISN) – USA Swimming chief executive Chuck Wielgus has withdrawn his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame following a report criticising his role in sexual abuse cases which occurred under his leadership.
Wielgus is not accused of any direct involvement in sexual abuse, but is seen as an “enabler” who turned a blind eye to allegations within the governing body.
The sport in the United States has been rocked by a series of sex abuse scandals, with one disgraced former coach, Andy King, currently serving a 40-year prison sentence in California, after being convicted of abusing more than a dozen girls over a period of more than 30 years.
The independent report recommends 39 changes to better protect underage athletes from predatory coaches, after insisting that those in positions of power at USA Swimming, including Wielgus, did nothing to protect the victims nor stop the abuse, and failed to responded properly when allegations came to light.
It is claimed in a secretly-taped speech Wielgus gave to coaches in 2009, he describes abuse allegations against coaches as something that “happens almost every week”, with his “greatest fear being that someone is going to start linking all this together”.
A petition has been set up on the website change.org by “19 victims of coaching sexual abuse and 29 stalwarts of the swimming community”, demanding that the International Swimming Hall of Fame rescind the induction of Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming since 1997.
This petition has so far garnered 831 supporters.
Chuck Wielgus has presided over swimming in the US since 1997 ©Getty Images
Following this, a joint statement was circulated by USA Swimming and the Hall of Fame revealing the nomination has been withdrawn.
“After significant reflection and discussion, International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) chairwoman Donna de Varona and President and chief executive Bruce Wigo, and USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus jointly announce that Mr. Wielgus’ name will be withdrawn from consideration of the Hall of Fame,” it said.
“The induction ceremony should be a time to celebrate our sport and the outstanding accomplishments of the individuals being honoured.