Top U.S. Swim Coaches Abused Teens, Impregnated Them, Covered It Up for Decades: Lawsuits
As an 11-year-old chosen to train under legendary swim coach Andrew King, Debra Grodensky believed she was destined to become an Olympic star. However, by 15, she had quit the sport out of fear following years of disturbing alleged sexual assault by King that culminated in her coach, then 37, asking her to marry him.
“My sexual abuse was 100 percent preventable,” Grodensky, 51, said on Wednesday as she filed a lawsuit against USA Swimming. “I believe my life trajectory would have been drastically different if USA Swimming did not have a culture that enabled coaching sexual abuse. It was that culture that allowed Andy King to abuse me for years without consequence.”
Grodensky was one of six women to file a series of lawsuits against USA Swimming on Wednesday, alleging the governing body ignored signs of sexual abuse by former U.S. Olympic coach Mitch Ivey and several other staff members in a decision that cultivated a culture of abuse for decades.
The three lawsuits, filed in Alameda County Superior Court and Orange County under California’s new sex abuse victims law, alleges abuse by Ivey, former San Jose swim coach Andrew King, and national team director Everett Uchiyama dates back to the 1980s.
The women allege USA Swimming knew the coaches were sexual predators, but were still provided access to dozens of young swimmers in a decision that came from the top down—from former executive director Chuck Wielgus to local associations and clubs.
The systematic cover-up, these women allege, has created a culture that still exists with USA Swimming.
Grodensky alleges King approached her parents about coaching her in the 1980s. Initially excited about the prospect of working with a swimming legend, Grodensky alleges King began grooming her shortly after at San Ramon Valley Aquatics—and eventually sexually assaulted her when she was 12 during USA Swimming sanctioned meets.
King would also perform hot oil rubs on female swimmers’ thighs and backs, and would even shave their legs, the suit alleges. Grodensky said King once told her “her swimming career would end if she told anyone about their affair,” but she said that the coach’s abuse also seemed to be an open secret in swimming. At swim meets, her “competitors would raise the issue” of King’s abuse with her.
Grodensky said King had unwanted sex with her for the first time at the 1984 U.S. Championships in Fort Lauderdale when she was 15. One year later, the lawsuit alleges, King, then 37, asked her to marry him. Grodensky said she was so alarmed, she quit.
Grodensky is one of three women in the lawsuit to accuse King of assaulting them. USA Swimming and Pacific Swimming enabled him “to use his position of authority to manipulate and sexually assault over a dozen minor female swimm...