This week, the Blotter is reprising 10 different Ross Unit investigations that made a difference in 2010. Today: An expose of sex abuse spurs reform of swimming's national governing body, and a report leads to a government investigation of Toyota and a major fine.
The Coach's Secret
An ABC News Investigative Team uncovered a shocking pattern of sexual misconduct by swim coaches with their vulnerable young female swimmers – as well as a questionable response by the sport's national governing body, which critics said looked the other way.
The ongoing "Coach's Secret" investigation, which began with a two-part "20/20" report April 9, 2010, revealed that one swim coach, Andy King, had been able to move from town to town, even after complaints against him and police investigations. King, 62, was able to abuse his swimmers over three decades up and down the West Coast, involving more than a dozen teen female victims.
Despite numerous sexual misconduct allegations against King and a 2008 police investigation, USA Swimming gave him a clean bill of health. Less than one year later, he was abusing another teen girl in a shed during swim practices in San Jose, California. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison in January. Since the investigation, internal documents were released showing that USA Swimming received at least two abuse complaints against King.
Other swim coaches abused swim meets and secretly taped young athletes changing in the locker rooms, only to be quietly banned.
Impact: Immediately after the report aired, USA Swimming announced it would pursue an investigation into specific sexual abuse allegations involving a swimmer profiled in the story. The coach was suspended indefinitely pending an ongoing investigation.
Two days after the story aired, USA Swimming apologized in a letter to its hundreds of thousands of swimmers, parents and coaches across the country and pledged to implement child protection safeguards. The organization promised to create an anonymous reporting hotline "so that victims who may be frightened can report any sexual abuse and have this information replayed to police," and announced it would publish a "Black List" to identify individuals who had been banned by USA Swimming.
This list was published May 26 and included Everett Uchiyama, the director of the U.S. national team from 2002 until his suspension in Jan. 2006 for admitting to a sexual relationship with a female swimmer he coached. At the time, Uchiyama was working as an aquatics director at a country club less than five miles from USA Swimming's headquarters in Colorado Springs. Documents showed a high-ranking USA Swimming official recommended Uchiyama for the job despite the sexual misconduct with a swimmer. The country club announced Uchiyama's immediate departure and said USA Swimming told them nothing about his past, except for giving him a positive reference.
USA Swimming has implemented a "7-Point Action Plan," which includes an athlete protection committee. The group has partnered with the Child Welfare League of America and is set to launch its new background check program on Jan. 10, 2011.