USA Swimming executive withdraws from Hall of Fame consideration as pressure mounted

Eric Adelson
Yahoo Sports

After days of public pressure, USA Swimming and the International Swimming Hall of Fame jointly announced that USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus has withdrawn his name from consideration for induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame later this month.

The announcement comes days after a petition was sent to the Hall of Fame by 19 women claiming past sexual abuse by U.S. swim coaches. The petition laid out reasons why Wielgus, who has overseen USA Swimming for 17 years, did too little to prevent and punish abusive coaches. Wielgus was scheduled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on June 14.

"After significant reflection and discussion, International Swimming Hall of Fame [ISHOF] Chairwoman Donna de Varona and President/CEO Bruce Wigo, and USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus jointly announce that Mr. Wielgus’ name will be withdrawn from consideration of the Hall of Fame," the statement reads. "The induction ceremony should be a time to celebrate our sport and the outstanding accomplishments of the individuals being honored. Both ISHOF and USA Swimming believe our mutual decision is in the best interest of the swimming community as a whole and we are committed to working constructively together with other organizations, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, to end sexual abuse and ensure a safe culture for athletes."

The decision came a day after Greg Louganis, one of the most popular American Olympians of all-time, tweeted his support for the petition.

"I don't think the Hall of Fame should be honoring somebody who is a party to any type of abuse," Louganis told Yahoo Sports on Monday.

As of Monday afternoon, the petition had more than 700 signees.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and the mayor of that city, Jack Seiler, is listed as a board member "city designee" on the Hall's website. Reached by phone Monday, Seiler said he had not been made aware of the petition and he was "surprised" there had not been more public attention given to it.

Chuck Wielgus (AP)
Chuck Wielgus (AP)

On Friday, Seiler called the petition's allegations "serious" and said he fully supported Hall of Fame CEO Bruce Wigo's response to the petition. (Seiler does not have a vote on the board.)

"The International Swimming Hall of Fame has received the petition and the response from USA Swimming, and our board is working together as a whole to review both documents," Wigo wrote in an email to Yahoo Sports. "We take the disturbing, grave questions raised in the petition very seriously. We would like to emphasize our great compassion and empathy for all survivors of sexual abuse. We are fully supportive of any effort that helps make our sport safe for young athletes."

Last week, in response to the petition, USA Swimming released a statement by five current and past presidents that refuted the claims in the petition and expressed support for Wielgus.

"Each of us has worked directly with Chuck Wielgus over the past 17 years and we wholeheartedly stand behind him and his outstanding accomplishments," the statement said. "His integrity and leadership have been inspirational to us, and we have seen first-hand his positive impact on USA Swimming's 400,000 members that include athletes, parents, volunteers, coaches and staff.

"Without hesitation, we attest that Chuck is a man of impeccable character who consistently exhibits a value system steeped in ethics and personal accountability. A stalwart leader in the sport of swimming and amateur athletics, he possesses a history of honesty, compassion and success that merits his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame."

The protesters do not blame Wielgus for their abuse, but rather for what they say is his inaction in response to it.

"It's sad that it even has to be a petition," Kelley Currin, 45, who says her abuse began when she was 13, told Yahoo Sports on Friday. "That's what's baffling, that in the past [17] years, with so much controversy, I cannot fathom why they would choose [him] this year. I can't understand it."

Prior to Wielgus' withdrawal, Louganis said he hopes is that the petition will bring more awareness to the plight of those who are abused.

"You're talking to a gay man," he said. "I've been through the ringer. I'm sensitive to the cause and providing safe environments to our children is of primary importance."


What to Read Next