Young athletes are in very vulnerable positions. Coaches can take on a superhero status and for a young person, the ability to determine what is or isn’t appropriate behavior becomes difficult. Trust is implicit in their relationship and often more time is spent with them than their family. The environment is conducive to children being abused if there are not appropriate policies and standards adhered to. Both USA swimming and more recently USA gymnastics have failed to protect young athletes.
In the case of USA Swimming, even when encouraged by The US Olympic Committee which sent letters in both 2004 and 2005, recommending that they put policies and procedures in place to protect young swimmers, they did nothing. It wasn’t until 2013 three years after a 20/20 broke a story about sexual abuse that they instituted protocols for dealing with sexual abuse complaints within the organization.
According to USA Today,
The swimming scandal was touched off in April 2010 by a 20/20 report detailing inappropriate relationships between coaches and underage athletes, which included the revelation that 36 coaches had been banned for life over the previous 10 years. There are now more than 100 names on the banned list, most for sexual misconduct, and USA Swimming was named in at least eight lawsuits accusing it of mishandling abuse complaints.
The revelation that the USOC had sent letters prior to the scandals sheds new light on the allegations that USA swimming deliberately ignored the allegations of sexual abuse until the scandal forced their hand.