Top U.S. Swim Coaches Abused Teens, Impregnated Them, Covered It Up for Decades: Lawsuits
Trainers Steve Morselli and Suzette Moran. Courtesy of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard.
As an 11-year-old trained under the legendary swimming coach Andrew King, Debra Grodensky believed that she was destined to become an Olympic star. At the age of 15, however, she gave up the sport out of fear after years of disrupting King's alleged sexual assault, which culminated in her then 37-year-old coach and asked her to marry him.
"My sexual abuse was 100 percent preventable," said 51-year-old Grodensky on Wednesday when she filed a lawsuit against USA Swimming. “I think my life path would have been drastically different if USA Swimming hadn't had a culture that would have made it possible to train sexual abuse. It was this culture that allowed Andy King to abuse me without consequence for years. "
Grodensky was one of six women to file a number of lawsuits against swimming in the United States on Wednesday. They claimed the board ignored signs of sexual abuse by former US Olympic coach Mitch Ivey and several other employees to maintain a culture of abuse for decades.
The three lawsuits filed in Alameda County Superior Court and Orange County under the new California Sexual Abuse Victims Act relate to abuse by Ivey, San Jose's former swimming coach, Andrew King, and national team director, Everett Uchiyama, and date from the 1980s.
The women claim that USA Swimming knew that the trainers were sexual predators, but still had access to dozens of young swimmers who were decided top down - from former CEO Chuck Wielgus to local associations and clubs.
Systematic cover-up, these women claim, has created a culture that is still around when swimming in the United States.
Debra Grodensky stopped swimming because her trainer abused her.
Courtesy of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard
Grodensky claims that King contacted her parents in the 1980s to coach them. Grodensky was initially thrilled by the prospect of working with a swimming legend, and claims that King took care of her at San Ramon Valley Aquatics shortly afterwards - and eventually sexually assaulted her when she was 12 years old.
King would also rub swimmers' thighs and backs with hot oil and even shave his legs, the suit claims. Grodensky said King once told her "her swimming career would end if she told anyone about her affair," but she said that abuse of the trainer also seemed an open secret to swimming. In swimming competitions, her "competitors would address the problem" of King's abuse with her.
Grodensky said King first had unwanted sex with her at the 1984 Fort Lauderdale Championships in 1984. A year later, the then 37-year-old King asked her to marry him. Grodensky said she was so alarmed that she stopped.
Grodensky is one of three women in the suit who accuse King of attacking her. Swimming in the United States and swimming in the Pacific allowed him to "use his authority to manipulate and sexually assault over a dozen underage swimmers over a 30-year period," the lawsuit adds.
Swimming coach Andrew King with an unknown victim.
Courtesy of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard
"Both organizations could have taken measures to prevent this pedophile series coach from harming children, but they chose to look away," the lawsuit said. "They put their profits and reputation as an organization above the safety of their young vulnerable woman." Athlete. "
The allegations against King date back to the 1980s and he was dropped despite earlier allegations of sexual assault. In 2009, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison for harassing and impregnating a 14-year-old swimmer.
Suzette Moran, who was also trained by King, claims in a lawsuit that she was 16 when US Olympic coach Mitch Ivey first made sexual progress against her. Ivey, a two-time Olympic medalist who was training at the Concord Pleasant Hill Swim Club at the time, reportedly went to her hotel room and had unwanted sex with her on a King-escorted trip during the 1983 US Championships in Indianapolis.
"USA Swimming needs to clean the house and get rid of the coaches and executives who created this culture, which tolerates sexual abuse by coaches and which still exists today," said Moran, 53, on Wednesday. "If I have the courage to tell my story on a national stage, USA Swimming should have the courage to clean the house and make this sport safer for all children."
The swimming club "knew, had reason to know, or was otherwise advised that Ivey had a close relationship with [Moran]," the lawsuit said. The club has done nothing to protect Moran and has not informed the authorities that Ivey has a close relationship with a minor.
Moran claims that Ivey impregnated them in December 1983. Moran was only 17 at the time, claiming that Ivey had told her "it was her problem to deal with it" - and she was forced to have an abortion. The lawsuit states that Moran was unable to swim for eight weeks, which made it difficult for her to train for the 1984 Summer Olympics.
During their relationship, Ivey Morgan wrote several handwritten love letters, including one that wished her happiness with nationals - before reminding them that you were loved. "For my beloved, hope these will brighten your day. I kept thinking about you. Take the time you need, ”Ivey wrote in another note. "I will be there for you."
The US Olympic swimming coach Mitch Ivey sent romantic cards to Suzette Moran as a teenager.
After Moran had not qualified for the Olympic Games, she became engaged to Ivey at the age of 17. When Moran was in college, she "broke off the engagement to Ivey in part because he lied to her because she was related to another," a minor swimmer.
"I still suffer from the trauma today," Moran added, explaining that the abuse had left her with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
She added that Ivey wasn't the only coach she saw abuse of her power - she often saw young girls sitting on coach Steve Morselli's lap (see picture above with Moran). "It scared me and I felt uncomfortable around him," she said. "Unfortunately, he still trains in the Bay Area today."
In 1988 Ivey was promoted to assistant coach of the 1988 Olympic Summer Swimming Team. He was released five years later after allegations surfaced that he had been sexually involved with several teenage swimmers and had been harassing athletes since the 1970s. He was eventually banned from life by USA Swimming in 2013.
Another woman named in the lawsuit, Tracy Palmero, said she was only 14 when national team director Everett Uchiyama began caring for her in 1990 for sexual abuse. Two years after training her at SoCal Aquatics, Palmero said Uchiyama was having sex with her. She called him a "predator" with a "long-term plan".
Former swimming coach Everett Uchiyama with Tracy Palmero.
Courtesy of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard
“16-year-old Tracy had dreams. I dreamed of living a typical dating life and meeting the man I would marry and have children with. Everett took away these dreams, ”said 47-year-old Palermo on Wednesday. She added that it shook my world when she finally resigned herself to becoming a victim of sexual abuse.
Uchiyama, who was later promoted to head of the U.S. national team, was jailed for life for sexual misconduct in 2008, but kept the decision secret for four years. During this time, he was hired in part at a nearby country club based on a recommendation from an American swimming official as a swimming instructor.
In addition to lawyers Robert Allard and Mark J. Boskovich, the three women said on Wednesday that the lawsuit would force USA Swimming to take responsibility for their actions and commit all members to a comprehensive sexual abuse education program.
"It is USA Swimming's job to make children's health, safety and wellbeing paramount in everything they do," said Palermo. “I would like to see an investigation of my specific situation, who knew nothing else and did nothing, and have some consequences for it. But for me most of it means changing the climate for the current athletes. "
Allard added that the culture of abuse in the US is still widespread and his office "is still getting calls about it".
"All of these victims have come forward 30 years later to hold swimming in the United States accountable for the hundreds of young women who have been sexually abused by a culture that tolerates the predatory behavior of coaches," he said. “All of these women have been abused by trainers who have been empowered by many people who still held leadership roles in the organization. These women want a full investigation into their cases and a lifelong ban on those who have covered up the trainers. "
The lawsuits announced on Wednesday are the first major filings under a new California law that allows sexual abuse victims to face their perpetrators in court. This creates a three-year window for filing claims that expired according to the state's statute of limitations.
According to the Orange County Register, USA Swimming paid a California company $ 77,627 in 2013 and 2014 to campaign against similar laws - but former governor Jerry Brown ultimately disputed the bill.
The United States Department of Justice and the IRS are currently investigating U.S. swimming, U.S. gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee after an assault on former members' sexual abuse claims. The Orange County Register reports that the federal investigation is investigating how these organizations treated abuse cases, including any payments made in response to the allegations.
The lawsuits reflect a 2018 Orange County Register investigation that found that USA Swimming had repeatedly missed the opportunity to revise a culture of sexual abuse. The investigation found that abuse of underage swimmers by trainers or other staff was common and was ignored by top officials.
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