U.S. Swimming Blamed for Sexual Abuse | Courthouse News Service
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U.S. Swimming Blamed for Sexual Abuse

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - United States Swimming looked the other way as its coaches had sexual contact with underage female swimmers for decades, a swimmer claims in Jackson County Court. The plaintiff claims her swimming coach with the Kansas City Dolphins, Robert Mirande, gave her alcohol and sexually abused her from the summer of 2006 to the winter of 2007, then moved on to a U.S. swimming club in another state.

The plaintiff, L.A.S., claims inappropriate sexual conduct from coaches has become a "chronic and pervasive epidemic" within U.S. Swimming.

"Going back to at least the mid-to-late 1980's, defendant U.S. Swimming has 'turned a blind eye' to inappropriate sexual relationships between its coaches and/or upper management and young female athlete member swimmers. Coaching members who dated or molested their swimmers was common practice," according to the complaint.

United States Swimming and Missouri Valley Swimming, the governing bodies of the Dolphins, also are defendants, as is Aaron Dean, Mirande's supervisor.

"Despite the fact that it operated with a budget of approximately $20 million and employed approximately 80 full-time employees, U.S. Swimming attempted to 'pass the buck' of completing a more complete background screening to the Member Clubs themselves, such as defendant Kansas City Dolphins, despite the knowledge that an overwhelming majority of the Member Clubs were (1) operated by volunteer parents who otherwise had full-time jobs elsewhere, (2) managed a budget a small fraction of the size of U.S. Swimming's budget, (3) had no experience or time to devote to background screening, (4) had no standardized method of background screening, and (5) were totally dependent on U.S. Swimming's resources, as well as inadequate guidelines and procedures set forth by US Swimming," the complaint states.

"U.S. Swimming did not require more comprehensive background screening procedures because it did not want to upset registered U.S. Swimming coaches, and instead deferred essential responsibilities to volunteer organizations with full knowledge that they would not be fulfilled to the detriment of young female athlete members who would be victimized by inappropriate sexual conduct as a result."

The plaintiff claims U.S. Swimming's code of conduct fails to protect female swimmers. The code fails to prohibit a male coach from being alone with young female swimmers, does not define sexual harassment, does not include disciplinary procedures and does not have a duty to report violation, the complaint states.

Despite numerous complaints by the plaintiff and other parents about Mirande's conduct, they say Dean did not report him to U.S. Swimming. After Dean left the Dolphins in September 2008 to become head swim coach for Occoquan Swimming in Virginia, another member club of U.S. Swimming, he hired Mirande to be a swimming coach at Occoquan, the complaint states.

"Despite the knowledge of defendant Mirande's inappropriate sexual conduct toward the plaintiff, nothing was done by defendants U.S. Swimming, Missouri Valley, Kansas City Dolphins, or Dean to discourage, prevent, or preclude further inappropriate and unlawful behavior by Mirande while working under their control," the complaint states.

"Further, U.S. Swimming, Missouri Valley, Kansas City Dolphins, and Dean failed to report, properly investigate, and/or to take corrective action such as expelling Mirande's coaching membership to US Swimming as a registered U.S. Swimming coach and all of its local swim committees and member club teams."

The plaintiff says Mirande continues to be a registered coach with U.S. Swimming, which serves as the national governing body for the sport.

The plaintiff claims inappropriate sexual conduct from coaches such as Mirande has become a "chronic and pervasive epidemic" within US Swimming coaching circles and that U.S. Swimming has "turned a blind eye" to such actions since the 1980s.

The plaintiff seeks damages for assault and battery, negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, emotional distress, vicarious liability and other charges, and an injunction.

She is represented by Lynn Johnson with Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman.

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