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Athlete Protection Task Force Established

08/11/2010, 11:02am CDT
By No Author

Over the past several years, USA Swimming imposed lifetime bans on 36 coaches for sexual misconduct, inappropriate sexual behavior, fraud, or illegal drug use.  The list was recently posted on line by USA Swimming.  In September 2009 a USA Swimming Youth Protection Task Force was formed to evaluate potential policies and guidelines for recommendation to the Board of Directors of USA Swimming.  Other sports organizations are dealing with similar issues.

While the USA Fencing Board of Directors has approved a Sexual Harassment Policy and other codes of conduct, they may not cover all areas of concern for the protection of  our fencers.  Therefore, the USA Fencing Executive Committee has established a Task Force  ”to review the USA Fencing policies and procedures applicable to persons in position of authority regarding their relationships with members under their charge and to propose any needed changes.”  Steve Sobel has been asked to chair this Task Force, with other members to be appointed during the late summer of 2010.

USA Fencing, as the National Governing Body (NGB) for fencing, recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Fencing Federation (FIE), has direct responsibility for the conduct of sanctioned competitions, issuing of credentials to referees and coaches at the competitions, selection of international teams, appointment of cadre to international teams, election and appointment of officers, chairs and committee members, establishing classifications of membership, and determining eligibility to compete, subject to the rules of the USOC and FIE. 

USA Fencing, as the National Governing Body for Fencing has no direct authority over activities in the sport that do not require USA Fencing membership for participation, such as private lessons in the coach-student relationship, and non USA Fencing sanctioned private activities in fencing clubs or under the jurisdiction of Collegiate organizations such as the NCAA, or State High School Associations. 


The role of the Task Force in general will be to review appropriate codes of conduct, guidelines, education programs for members, and means of identifying persons guilty of sexual misconduct or other threats to athletes while giving due regard to processes that also protect the individual rights of persons under scrutiny and all members.  The Task Force will also suggest how the existing codes, programs and procedures can be improved, including considering whether the USA Fencing should publicize the identities of persons properly identified as predators to minor fencers, their parents, potential employers or others.

In areas of direct USA Fencing responsibility, appropriate disciplinary procedures, including sanctions such as membership suspensions and lifetime bans, will also be reviewed. In private areas not under the jurisdiction of  USA Fencing, appropriate  guidelines and recommended practices will be considered.  For example, the guidelines for USA Swimming include background checks of coaches hired by clubs, an open and observable environments for all interactions between adults and athletes to avoid private one-on-one situations, and a two deep leadership policy in which one coach and one other adult need to be present at practices, competitions, and meetings.         

The Task Force will report its findings and recommendations to the USA Fencing Board of Directors no later than February 2011. 


Members with expertise in areas related to the work of this Task Force, such as personnel management; sexual harassment counseling, prevention or training; human resource groups; victim advocacy or related fields who are interested in working with the Task Force are encouraged to send an email to prior to September 1.  These individuals are asked to include relevant information about their experience in this area and contact information.  USA Fencing members with relevant experience who are or have been athletes, parents of fencers, coaches, referees, team captains and managers are also encouraged to apply.     

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