Dirty Laundry Aired in Youth Swimming

     SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – A former national swim coach covered up allegations of sexual misconduct by other coaches and fired a female colleague for complaining about it, the ousted coach claims in court.
     Dia Rianda sued Mark Schubert and Golden West Swim Club, in Orange County Superior Court. Schubert was a staff coach on eight U.S. Olympic teams and was head coach of the 2008 Olympics swimmers, according to the complaint.
     Rianda claims she was wrongfully fired, and that Schubert went to “great lengths to protect a fellow coach in the face of clear, unequivocal concerns that the coach [was] behaving in a sexually improper manner with young athletes placed under his control.”
     She claims that Schubert discovered that an assistant at the Beijing Olympics, coach Sean Hutchison, “was engaged in an inappropriate relationship with at least one of the athletes he was coaching.”
     Hutchison is not a party to the complaint.
     In her complaint, Rianda claims that Schubert hired a private investigator to track Hutchison and obtained photos and/or video of Hutchison “acting intimately with at least one of his swimmers.”
     But instead of turning over the evidence to authorities, Schubert kept it as “‘insurance’ to be used for his personal gain in the future,” the complaint states.
     Rianda claims that Schubert also recruited his close friend William Jewell to serve as CEO of the Fullerton Aquatics Swim Club (FAST) Elite Training Center, which is funded by USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming in the United States.
     When parents and other coaches began complaining that Jewell was giving female swimmers massages and “having improper physical contacts” with some of them, USA Swimming launched an investigation, Rianda says.
     While the investigation was pending, Schubert brought Jewell with him to the Golden West Swim Club, where Schubert had landed the head coaching job after being fired by USA Swimming in November 2010, according to the lawsuit.
     Schubert “decided to pursue litigation” against USA Swimming over his firing, and during negotiations, “decided to cash in on his ‘insurance policy’ in the form of the incriminating information that he had in his possession concerning Coach Hutchison,” Rianda says in her complaint.
     USA Swimming was already embroiled in a sex-abuse scandal, and Schubert knew the organization would be “highly motivated” to keep the Hutchison incident quiet, Rianda says in the complaint. She claims Schubert “surreptitiously leaked” some of his information to a Washington Post sports writer, resulting in an exposé that “stunned the USA Swimming community.”
     “Yet another black eye was levied against the leaders of USA Swimming and a revolt was brewing,” the complaint states. “The full story involving Coach Hutchison, if revealed, would cause many ‘heads to roll’ of some of the most powerful leaders of USA Swimming. Schubert succeeded in getting USA Swimming’s attention. The following implied message was sent: ‘This is just the beginning. Pay me what I want and no further information gets leaked.'”
     Schubert received a $625,000 settlement in exchange for his silence about the sexual abuse, including the remaining information he had on Hutchison and his knowledge about Rick Curl , a swim coach accused of sexually abusing a teenage swimmer in the 1980s, according to the complaint.
     Rianda claims that Schubert had confided in her that he knew about Curl’s abuse of the young girl, but “did nothing since her problems were ‘too big’ and it would take away from the team so he decided not to help her in the interest of the other swimmers.” He said he’d told USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus about the problem, but Wielgus “wouldn’t listen,” according to the complaint.
     Neither Wielgus, Curl nor Jewell are parties to the complaint. The only defendants are Schubert, Golden West Swim Club, Golden West Swim Club Support Group, and Doe 1 through 50.
     USA Swimming denied that it paid Schubert to keep quiet.
     “The resolution of the relationship between Mark Schubert and USA Swimming absolutely did not involve any cover-up of alleged sexual misconduct by Sean Hutchison or any other person,” USA Swimming told the Washington Post.
     USA Swimming cleared Hutchison of wrongdoing, and he is now the director of King Aquatics in Washington state, according to Rianda’s lawsuit.
     “This method of covering up and relocating swim coaches was not unique in the USA Swimming world, as similar action had previously been taken with other notable coaches such as former National Team Director Everett Uchiyama and Aaron Bartleson,” the complaint states.
     Uchiyama was suspended for sexual misconduct in 2010. His name appeared on a list of 46 people who were banned for life or permanently quit the organization, most for sex-related offenses.
     Bartleson, a former USA Swimming coach, was also on the list.
     Rianda, a swim coach and manager at the Golden West Swim Club, says she was fired for complaining that Schubert allowed Jewell to continue coaching swim club girls while he was under investigation by USA Swimming.
     She claims she observed or received numerous complaints about Jewell’s inappropriate conduct, including the “physical touching of the young female swimmers in an inappropriate (if not unlawful) manner; providing physical ‘massages’ on young female swimmers while they sat poolside between his legs; allowing young female swimmers to sit on his lap; improper sexual innuendo directed at his young swimmers; constant use of profanity; meeting alone with his female swimmers.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Schubert failed to report Jewell’s behavior and left him alone with young swimmers while he and Rianda attended the Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Neb., according to the lawsuit. While they were gone, there were reports of underage drinking, an incident in which Jewell asked a 12-year-old swimmer to cheat, and senior girls wearing bikinis to practice, in violation of club rules, Rianda claims.
     She says Schubert also lied to staffers that Jewell had been “cleared” and was “fully exonerated” by USA Swimming, when he wasn’t.
     “According to Schubert, Jewell was fully within his rights in touching and massaging his athletes, that this was accepted practice swim coaches and endorsed and demonstrated by those at the top of USA Swimming,” the complaint states. “He also told plaintiff that the new rules were stupid and ridiculous.”
     Rianda says she tried to get through to Schubert in writing, sending him an email in June to warn him that he “will look very bad for bringing [Jewell] back.”
     She says she wrote: “I am asking you in writing ‘to cover my own ass’ to do the RIGHT THING here.” (Emphasis in original.)
     But the email only angered Schubert, who fired her on July 11 for complaining to him and to USA Swimming about Jewell’s conduct, Rianda claims.
     “Schubert decided to address this ongoing problem by simply getting rid of the messenger,” she says.
     Neither Schubert nor the Golden West Swim Club Support Group immediatey responded to requests for comment.
     Rianda wants the defendants to pay actual and punitive damages for wrongful termination, breach of employment contract and retaliation.
     She is represented by Alyson Gleason of Corsiglia McMahon & Allard in San Jose.

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