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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

A pair of former USA Gymnastics presidents have said University of Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick played a key role in advising USA Gymnastics on policies related to sexual abuse.

In the report published Monday by the Indianapolis Star, Mike Jacki, who served as president from 1983 to 1994, said Swarbrick discouraged the organization from providing a booklet on child abuse to its members. Swarbrick denied the charge.

Another former president, Steve Penny, who served from 2005 to 2017, cited Swarbrick as the organization's legal counsel in a 2015 deposition and said sexual abuse issues were "managed by our attorney." Even if they relied on advice of legal counsel, the USA Gymnastics board was ultimately responsible for setting policy.

A Notre Dame official said Swarbrick was unavailable Monday morning to respond to inquiries about the report.

John Heisler, senior associate athletic director at Notre Dame, said Swarbrick would not answer any additional questions. The Swarbrick quotes in the Star's report are accurate, Heisler said.

"We have nothing to add beyond Mr. Swarbrick's comments to the Indianapolis Star, which are accurate as reported," said Dennis Brown, spokesman for Notre Dame.

According to The Star, Swarbrick declined an interview but did respond to written questions from the newspaper. Prior to becoming athletic director at Notre Dame in 2008, Swarbrick was chairman of the Indiana Sports Corp. from 1992 to 2001.

Swarbrick told The Star it was his former firm, then called Baker & Daniels, that was the entity representing USA Gymnastics and giving advice. Swarbrick said he moved in and out of working with the organization from 1984 to 2008. The firm is now known as Faegre Baker Daniels.

"Your investigation to date offers evidence USA Gymnastics may have been able to do a better job of implementing the system it created, and I am hopeful that the new leadership of USA Gymnastics will use the information you and others have provided to improve the system," Swarbrick said to The Star.

A deposition Swarbrick gave in 2012 as part of a lawsuit by former swimmer Jancy Thompson against USA Swimming for allegedly failing to protect her from a sexually abusive coach includes multiple instances of Swarbrick refusing to answer questions because he had acted as the attorney for USA Swimming. He also reported having done legal work for USA Gymnastics, as well as the governing bodies for synchronized swimming, rowing, diving and skiing.

The Star report also revealed that Swarbrick was copied on several letters included in files USA Gymnastics kept on 54 coaches accused of sexual abuse. Many of those files were kept in a drawer and not reported to law enforcement, The Star reported. Swarbrick denied any knowledge of the 54 cases, saying most cases he was aware of involved coaches who had already been reported to law enforcement.

A series of stories that date to 2016 have raised questions about how USA Gymnastics handled sex abuse allegations and why the organization did not report them to authorities. In the wake of the controversy, a former Olympic gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, has been convicted of abusing hundreds of girls over several years.

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February 7, 2018
 
 
 

 

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