Former Olympic Hopefuls Say Swimming Coaches Sexually Abused Them
The swimmers are speaking to Inside Edition about the abuse.
America has been horrified by the extent of the abuse by gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, but within another group of athletes who have spent countless hours of training, some say they too have been sexually assaulted by their coaches.
The sport is swimming. Scores of women say they've been victimized and that swimming officials didn't do enough to protect them.
Laura Weiss was a freshman at an Indianapolis high school when she says her swim coach, Chris Wheat, began sexually abusing her.
“I had never even kissed a boy,” she told Inside Edition. “One afternoon after practice, he asked me to come to his office. He closed the door and that was the first time he molested me and I was 14.”
She added, “I considered suicide many times and I can't imagine all the other girls that are probably feeling the same way."
Weiss said she was too afraid to tell anyone what her coach was doing to her.
“He told me I would never be allowed to swim again,” she said. “So the blame was heavily put on me to keep quiet.”
The abuse only came to an end after her mom found inappropriate texts the coach had sent her.
Wheat is now a registered sex offender after pleading guilty to child solicitation and sexual misconduct with a minor. The once-popular coach was sentenced to 10 years in jail, but served just 19 months.
Inside Edition’s Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero tried to talk to him.
“I'd like to ask you about a young girl you once coached named Laura. She claims you sexually abused her when she was 14, what's your response?” she asked.
But he didn’t answer her.
Jancy Thompson was also brought to tears as she recalled the memories of what she claims her coach did to her.
“I was so fearful of him, I would have nightmares at night,” she said as tears streamed down her face.
Once an elite swimmer in California's Bay Area, Thompson says her coach, Norm Havercroft, abused her for years. The coach denies the allegations and no charges were ever filed.
“He would touch me, he would put my hands where he wanted me to touch him,” she said.
USA Swimming actually keeps a running list of coaches banned for life for sexual misconduct with swimmers. The list was once a closely held secret but it was finally made public after lawsuits filed by attorneys Jon Little and Bob Allard. Weiss’s former coach, Wheat, is on the list but Thompson’s former coach, Havercroft, is not.
They were astounded when they learned that more than 100 coaches were banned for life for sexual abuse or misconduct.
“They're doing nothing to prevent sexual abuse between coaches and swimmers,” Little said.
“We're talking well over a hundred Larry Nassars," Allard added. "The only difference between gymnastics and swimming is the media avalanche."
Like Nassar's victims, these women are now ready to share their story.
“I think it’s hard when you see how many girls have been abused and how many coaches have gotten away with it," Weiss said. "It’s hard to believe something is going to change."
“He knows that he's done something wrong and I may cry, but I'm still here and I will share my story,” Thompson said.
Congress has launched an investigation into USA Swimming and has asked the organization's president to appear at a hearing next week.
Inside Edition asked USA Swimming for a comment but they declined to provide one.
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