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Ex-Olympics coach accused of ignoring inappropriate behavior

Lawsuit alleges that Mark Schubert, chief of the Golden West Swim Club, fired Dia Rianda after she complained about coach William Jewell.

September 18, 2012|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • Mark Schubert is accused in a lawsuit of failng to report inappropriate behavior between a coach and young female swimmers.
Mark Schubert is accused in a lawsuit of failng to report inappropriate… (Robert Laberge, Getty Images )

A former U.S. Olympic swimming coach who trained four-time gold medalist Janet Evans ignored complaints of sexually inappropriate behavior between a longtime friend he hired and young athletes, a lawsuit filed Monday in Orange County Superior Court alleges.

The suit charges that eight-time Olympic coach Mark Schubert, who is the chief executive officer of Golden West Swim Club in Huntington Beach, fired Dia Rianda after she complained about the behavior of a colleague, coach William Jewell.

Schubert has trained at least 26 Olympic athletes and was named the head of the U.S. national team in 2006 before abruptly being dismissed four years later.

DOCUMENT: U.S. swim coach lawsuit

Rianda said she filed the suit in hopes of bringing change to a sport whose reputation has been tarnished in recent years by sexual abuse allegations. Over the last two years, USA Swimming has enacted policies resulting in 16 members being banned for life from the sport, according to a progress report recently released by the organization.

"It's easier for a lot of people to turn their heads and look the other way," Rianda said in an interview Monday.

Neither Schubert nor Jewell responded to requests for comment.

The lawsuit charges that while Schubert was involved with a Fullerton swim club, he failed to report allegations of improper conduct between coaches and some of the club's young athletes. Instead, the suit contends, Schubert hired a private investigator to gather evidence against one of the coaches and used it as leverage to extract a $625,000 settlement from USA Swimming after he was dismissed in 2010.

Schubert also failed to promptly tell authorities about another coach who had a sexual relationship with a swimmer in the 1980s, according to the suit, which charges that even after the coach finally told USA Swimming officials about it, they also failed to act.

In 2011, Schubert was hired as the head coach and chief executive officer of Golden West Swim Club in Huntington Beach, where he enlisted Rianda's help.

Rianda, a philanthropist who has donated at least $100,000 to USA Swimming, said she fielded complaints from other coaches and sometimes observed inappropriate behavior by Jewell, whom Schubert hired from the Fullerton club.

Jewell was the subject of complaints from the Fullerton club, and after he was hired at Golden West, he was the subject of a USA Swimming investigation, according to the suit.

USA Swimming cannot comment on ongoing investigations, a spokeswoman said in an email.

The lawsuit alleges that Jewell would provide massages to young female swimmers while they sat poolside between his legs and that he would allow the girls to sit in his lap. Rianda said she met with Schubert about the complaints, yet the behavior continued.

According to the suit, Schubert assured the coaching staff that the matter was taken care of and demanded that he not be consulted in writing about the complaints.

Rianda said she was told that Jewell would be asked to suspend his coaching duties pending the completion of the USA Swimming investigation. But Rianda said Jewell was soon back on the pool deck coaching female athletes.

While Rianda was with Schubert at the USA Swimming Olympic trials in Nebraska, she heard complaints that athletes were wearing bikinis to practice, a violation of policies.

Rianda was fired in July after the trials.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

Times staff writers Lisa Dillman and Jason Song contributed to this report.

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