20/20 on ABC is doing a piece tonight on USA Swimming’s alleged cover up of sexual abuse. I believe this permeates society and is not limited to competitive swimming, but so far USA Swimming’s response to this has been upsetting to me. I am dreading tonight’s show, because I’m in it, tho’ I don’t know to what extent.
I know I talked about my swim coach in a prior blog post here, describing a special one-on-one workout in which he proceeded to emotionally abuse me for an hour straight because I did not perform up to his expectations.
But this coach, Andy King, did far more worse things than that.
More than twenty years later, I am still so angry.
Here’s what he did to me.
I’m 19 years old, my two years swimming for Chabot Junior College in Hayward, CA, are done, but I’m still swimming with Andy King’s age group team, Chabot Aquatics, because he says my swim team in Pleasanton let me down, that they didn’t recognize my talent, and only he sees it.
It’s the summer time. No one really wants to swim today. We’d rather lounge about in the sun.
Andy says that if I kiss so-and-so for thirty seconds, we can get out of swim practice for the day.
There are twenty of us there, probably. Nineteen are in hysterics. They are shrieking. This is awesome, maybe one of the funniest things they’d ever seen.
I say no way. No way are you going to make me do this.
This isn’t the first time he’s wanted me to do this, and I can’t figure out what’s so funny about it. Why are the others okay with this? How is this funny? Why isn’t anyone backing me up? Why am I going this alone?
My teammattes, from as young as twelve and as old as 23, are not just okay with it, they’re demanding I do it, because now he’s upping the stakes. This time, if I don’t do it, we’ll all have to do 10 x 400 IMs, which is possibly the worst set ever invented. It’s not a set. It’s what lazy coaches concoct because they can’t think of anything more creative or challenging. There’s no goal behind it, no point. It’s punitive.
The stakes are: if I don’t do it, everyone’s going to hate me. They’re telling me how much they’ll hate me. They’re screaming at me to do it. These are my friends, my world. I have to do it. This kid I’m supposed to kiss says I have to do it.
I feel my face burning in humiliation, and this kid sits right next to me. Our lips touch, and I watch from the corner of my eye, all my friends, jumping, clapping and laughing.
One minute and seven seconds later, I have an afterglow, they say. This was good for me. I’ve always been too much of a prude, you see. I need to break out of my chains.
Andy says he had no idea that I had it in me, that he’s so proud of me. He says he lost track of the time, because it was so exciting to watch.
We go back to the locker room to change and go home and enjoy the sunshine of the day.
Thirteen years later, I sent an email to Pacific Swimming describing this, because I had heard rumors about him and young girls, I heard coaches complain about him and young girls, but he was still coaching. I was 33 years old by then, as only then was there enough distance to see that what he had done to me was so wrong.
So, here, let me send this to you, Pacific Swimming. Here’s what he did to me.
Pacific Swimming lost the complaint.
Andy King will spend the rest of his life prison now, because while he was training his swimmers to laugh at others’ humiliation, while he was prescribing marathon sets to get everyone out of his hair, he was molesting his much younger female swimmers. You know, having sex with them. Buying them birth control. Proposing marriage to 15 year olds, when he was over 40.
He did this for thirty years, moving from state to state when it appeared he might get caught, leaving his past behind him.
USA Swimming is saying that sometimes things like this just slip through the cracks.
Cracks. What about this gaping black hole called an Inbox.
What changed. Why would it take so long for his reign of abuse to come to an end?
Because a fifteen year old girl in San Jose had the courage to speak up, and adults had the courage to listen.