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San Jose State Reinvestigating Athletic Trainer Case

Paul Steinbach

San Jose State University is reinvestigating claims by 17 former members of its swimming and diving team that a top athletic trainer at the school touched them inappropriately.

As reported by USA Today, Scott Shaw, who has served as San Jose State’s director of sports medicine since 2008, allegedly touched female athletes beneath their undergarments, massaging their breasts and pelvic areas when they sought treatment for other parts of their bodies. Swim coach Sage Hopkins documented the student-athletes accounts in a nearly 300-page file and notified campus police at the time, but Shaw was never arrested or charged. The university launched the initial investigation through its human resources department in late 2009, but quietly cleared Shaw of wrongdoing in 2010.

Hopkins sent the file to the school’s Title IX office in 2018. In it, he also alleges that university officials over the years retaliated against him and his team for speaking out against Shaw. Hopkins has circulated the file among NCAA and Mountain West Conference officials in the last year, the university said.

USA Today reporters tracked down two former athletes from other San Jose State women’s teams who said they stopped seeing Shaw after similar touching that made them uncomfortable. Both said the university never asked them about Shaw.

Four former swimmers spoke to USA Today and described Shaw touching their breasts or groins while conducting trigger-point therapy away from the site of their pain. Shaw, they said, was the only trainer who performed that type of massage, which entails applying pressure to various points in the body to relieve pain in other areas. 

“I don’t think that that was the one thing that had to be done in order to help us heal or recover,” said Linzy Warkentin, one of the original complainants. “And I’m pretty sure it would have been the same outcome if it was on top of my bra.”

San Jose State's initial investigation “concluded Trigger Point Therapy was a bona fide and accepted method of treatment.” However, since the 2009-10 case, the university has changed its sports medicine policies to bar the type of touching Shaw allegedly did without explicit consent and the presence of a chaperone. It did not answer a question about whether it changed the policies because of Shaw.

Shaw declined to comment, but his attorney wrote in a cease-and-desist letter that “San Jose State University made a thorough and complete investigation into one allegation made against Mr. Shaw 11 years ago," Costanzo wrote in a cease-and-desist letter to Hopkins accusing him of resurrecting the allegations against her client to ruin his reputation. The matter was promptly dropped with no further action taken against Mr. Shaw. In fact, Mr. Shaw continued to work in his current role, without consequence, to the present.”

No new complaints have been made against Shaw since 2009, the university said, but it reopened the investigation in December when the file came to the attention of SJSU president Mary Papazian. It was the first Papazian had heard about the matter since taking office in 2016, she said in a statement, which reads as follows:

In December of 2019, I was made aware of a ten-year-old case in which an athletic trainer was accused of inappropriate touching while treating student-athletes. The notification came in the form of a packet of emails and notes that was circulated to the NCAA and Mountain West Conference by an SJSU coach.  

Having not been at the University at the time of the allegation, and given the seriousness of the allegations, I checked with our Title IX office and human resources department about the 2009-10 investigation and was told that the inquiry by SJSU human resources department found no wrongdoing. 

However, the packet gave me pause and I wanted to know more about what transpired in 2009-10, so I reopened the matter in December. In January 2020, an independent investigator was hired to conduct the investigation.

I want the student-athletes who have expressed concern to know they have my empathy and commitment to ensure their voices are heard. I also want all involved in this investigation to be assured of our commitment to a process of integrity, fairness and thoroughness. 

My promise is to continue to be transparent about the process. SJSU will provide an update at the completion of the investigation. To make it abundantly clear, SJSU will take appropriate action if any misconduct has taken place, regardless of the timeframe.

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