In some cases, the swimming coaches found to have been sexual predators were able to move from town to town, one step ahead of police and angry victims and their parents.
"We have a system that does not encourage the reporting," said Bob Allard, a San Jose, CA lawyer representing sex abuse victims suing USA Swimming.
A San Jose swimming coach, Andy King, 62, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in January after authorities discovered a pattern of sexual abuse that stretched over three decades up and down the West Coast and involved more than a dozen teen female victims.
"He was a monster," said Santa Clara County prosecutor Ray Mendoza. "He had almost every conceivable sex act," he said.
Mendoza said King would move out of town once parents or police began asking questions and was stopped only after a 14-year old girl in San Jose complained to her youth pastor.
King previously worked as a swim coach in the San Francisco Bay area and in Oak Harbor, WA, where he was regarded as an excellent coach for aspiring Olympic team swimmers.
"He may have been a good coach, but his goal with these girls ultimately was to molest them," said prosecutor Mendoza.
King's lawyer, Jamie Harley, said some of the responsibility belongs to the swimmers' parents whose ambition for their children blinded them to the problem.
"I think Mr. King bears enormous responsibility here, But I think the parents were not minding the store," she said. "I think had they been minding the store – had they been watching what's going on with their own children this opportunity never could have presented itself."
In 2008, USA Swimming gave King a clean bill of health, saying his background screening had been approved.
"Congratulations," read the letter. "Your background screening has been thoroughly reviewed and meets the qualification standards set by USA Swimming."
According to USA Swimming, the organization only checks for criminal convictions and does not include background interviews or investigations with local police.
"It was willfully incomplete," said Bob Allard, a lawyer for families now suing USA Swimming. "A simple phone call to Oak Harbor, his prior stop, or to the East Bay would have revealed much about this man's propensity to abuse and molest kids."
Police later documented at least 15 victims among the teenage girl swimmers he coached over the years, including a woman who said she had an abortion after King got her pregnant at the age of 14.
"We want to have the gold standard and I think we do an awesome job," said USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus. "I don't think we're perfect.
Wielgus says the local swim clubs, not the national organization, bear the responsibility to check the full backgrounds of swimming coaches they hire.
He said the 36 coaches banned by the organization over the last ten years were only a tiny fraction of the organization's 12,000 coaches in that time period.
"Thirty six does seem like a whole lot. A hundred is even more. Five hundred is even more," he told correspondent Brian Ross.
Asked if he had apologized to any of the young teen victims, Wielgus responded, "You feel I need to apologize to them?"