Lawsuit alleges sexual abuse in youth swimming

March 19, 2010 8:33:11 PM PDT
1972 Olympic Gold Medal winner Deena Deardurff Schmidt says she was repeatedly molested by her former coach starting at age 11 for four years. Schmidt would not name her assailant, except to say he is now in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

"Coaches have been more concerned with the success rate of swimmers than the well-being of these young people," she said. "My objective is to see US Swimming create a clearly defined policy to insure the safety of all children competing in U.S. swim clubs."

Schmidt made the charges at a news conference held by Attorney Robert Allard, who filed a lawsuit late Thursday against United States Swimming, the national organization for swimming, Pacific Swimming, the West Coast branch of USA Swimming and San Jose Aquatics, charging that there is a culture in youth swimming that ignores widespread sexual abuse by coaches.

"US Swimming created a culture that fostered molestation by coaches against young female swimmers," Allard said. "Yet despite the chronic and pervasive problem, we believe that not enough has been done by US Swimming."

Allard represents a 14-year-old San Jose girl who was abused by Andrew King, a well known swim coach who at one time worked at the San Jose Aquatics. King is now serving a 40-year prison sentence for sexually abusing girls he coached in the South Bay and East Bay swim clubs.

Schmidt is not mentioned as a plaintiff in the suit but said she participated in the news briefing to lend support to Allard's claims that the abuse was prevalent. Schmidt says she told her parents and swim officials that she was being molested by her coach but officials did nothing.

Allard said he was filing suit to force USA Swimming to put in place strong policies aimed at preventing abuses of young swimmers.

San Jose Aquatics did not return calls for comment, but USA Swimming issued a statement saying they take allegations of abuse seriously and has policies in place to protect young swimmers.


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