Times

The Chuck Wielgus Blog: Safe Sport

8/20/2013

Over the past few weeks there have been two extremely important developments in the fight against sexual abuse in youth sports programs.  

First, a few weeks ago the U.S. Olympic Committee announced the formation of a new Safe Sport Working Group.  This working group is charged with “making an informed recommendation to the USOC regarding possible models for sport organizations to use for the investigation, adjudication and sanctioning of prohibited conduct.”  

The 11-member working group will be chaired by Malia Arrington, USOC Director of Safe Sport.  USA Swimming’s Director of Safe Sport, Susan Woessner has been appointed to serve on the working group, as has Olympic swimmer Margaret Hoelzer as a representative of the USOC’s Athlete’s Advisory Council.

The formation of this working group comes as very good news, especially for those of us who believe an outside agency is needed to receive and handle complaints.  The current situation with sexual abuse complaints is similar to what we faced with drug testing, i.e. the argument that the fox is guarding the henhouse.  This is precisely what led to the formation of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), so that NGBs were no longer in the position of prosecuting their own athletes who had a positive test result.  

The second important development was USA Swimming’s recent announcement about plans for an independent review of its Safe Sport program.  This review will be led by Mr. Victor Vieth, Executive Director of the National Child Protection Training Center.  

This review is something that we are doing voluntarily.  The USA Swimming Safe Sport Program was initiated in 2010 and we believe that an independent review will serve as something of a report card.  It can measure our progress to date, and it can make recommendations for future improvements.  

Mr. Vieth’s credentials and expertise make him an ideal person to lead the study effort which will be undertaken over the next several months.  Mr. Vieth will study the best practices of other youth sports and youth-serving organizations and make recommendations to USA Swimming for how our Safe Sport program can be improved.  

Mr. Vieth’s final report will be presented to the USA Swimming Board of Directors at their winter meeting, scheduled for late January.  The report will then be made public.

The USOC’s working group and USA Swimming’s Safe Sport review project are two important and meaningful steps forwards in the fight against sexual abuse in youth sports programs.  USA Swimming desires to be a leader in this fight and we will continue to work toward raising awareness to reduce the risks of abuse.

 

Chuck Wielgus can be contacted at: cwielgus@usaswimming.org