Congressman Asks FBI to Investigate USA Swimming Over Child Sex Abuse

This past spring, New Times published a cover story detailing widespread sexual abuse in competitive swimming. The story detailed many Florida connections, including allegations about one Fort Lauderdale coach who was accused of videotaping boys in a bathroom but was barely investigated.

Now, California Congressman George Miller has asked the FBI to look into the matter.

In many past cases, including cases that ultimately resulted in jail time for sexually abusive coaches, the sport's national governing body, USA Swimming, and its longtime head, Chuck Wielgus, knew of the abuse allegations but neglected to stop -- and in many cases to even investigate -- predatory coaches.

This spring, Wielgus was set to be nominated into the Swimming Hall of Fame but declined at the last minute due to public outcry around the time the New Times story was published. Wielgus reportedly earns about $900,000 a year.

As we reported in May: Hundreds of young athletes across the country have been routinely molested by their coaches, but over and over again, authorities have dismissed victims' accounts, letting pedophiles bounce from program to program. Alleged victims have compared the scandal to Penn State and the Catholic church, but it has taken a dozen lawsuits and the persistence of two bloggers, Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce, to prompt action. In just the past four years, at least 45 coaches have been suspended.

Journalists Muchnick and Joyce persistently reported on every case of sex abuse in swimming that they could find, eventually attracting attention from Miller, who opened a congressional investigation.

Yesterday, Muchnick published letters that show Miller invoked help from the FBI.

The FBI responded to him in August. Maxwell D. Marker, the acting deputy assistant director of the criminal investigative division, told Miller: The FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children section reviewed the information, and FBI representatives met with swimming officials and "discussed applicable federal violations associated with child exploitation matters, the vulnerabilities of those within USA Swimming."

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Deirdra Funcheon