In an environment of little oversight, leading swim coaches across the US have taken advantage of a power dynamic to abuse their athletes for decades. In an in-depth piece at Outside, Rachel Sturtz recounts the story of Anna Strzempko, a former top swimmer who has reported repeated rapes by her coach, to little avail: He has never been convicted, while team and community members turned against Strzempko. "She lost her sport, she lost her community, and everyone thought she was crazy," her mother says. The tale is far from unique: Sturtz notes that just four months' worth of Google alerts for "coach sex" and "coach arrested" prompted stories of 80 coaches involved in abuse over 20 years. And of course, "these were just the cases that made the news."
While schools, companies, and professional organizations may have rules in place to address harassment and abuse, kids involved in athletics aren't protected by federal law. USA Swimming had, until recently, done little to address the issue. The body existed for 19 years before sexual contact was "even mentioned in (its) code of conduct," Sturtz writes. Coaches didn't need background checks until 2006. In June, the US Olympic Committee finally announced the National Center for Safe Sport, which will fight abuse of young athletes; it's the first such organization in US history. But victims like Strzempko continue to grapple with huge legal hurdles, and many advocates want executive director Chuck Wielgus out. Click for Sturtz's full piece.