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Woman accuses former Olympic swimming coach of sexually assaulting her as a teenager and USA Swimming of failing to stop it

A former high-level swimmer accused her Hall of Fame coach of sexually assaulting her about 15 years ago when she was a minor, claiming that USA Swimming and other organizations and individuals knew about the abuse and did nothing to to stop it, according to a federal lawsuit. Amanda Le’s lawsuit was filed against “the individuals and corporate entities who allowed a known child molester to work as a youth swim coach, who supported him for decades with infrastructure, position and prestige, and who gave him full access to a never-ending cycle of young girls to to hunt down,” the complaint states. “Amanda Le was one of those girls.” The 33-page lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, alleges sexual abuse by Joseph Bernal, the former Fordham and Harvard swimming coach who was part of the U.S. coaching staff at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. multiple Olympic medalists and world record holders and was inducted into the American Swim Coaches Hall of Fame in 2015, the lawsuit states. He also founded Bernal’s Gator Swim Club, an amateur swimming club, and coached Le from 2006 to 2010. Bernal sexually abused Le from about 2008 to 2014, the lawsuit said. In February 2016, USA Swimming permanently banned Bernal for his abuse of an unnamed “Athlete A,” the lawsuit said. That athlete was Le, the complaint states. Bernal is mentioned on a USA Swimming website that lists individuals who have been permanently suspended or ineligible for membership due to “sexual misconduct.” “USA Swimming is deeply committed to the safety and well-being of all its members,” the organization’s then-spokesman, Scott Leightman, said in a statement to The Boston Globe in 2016. “The mission of the Safe Sport program is to raise awareness to reduce the risk of abuse in sport and our organization will not tolerate violations of our code of conduct.” CNN contacted USA Swimming for comment on the lawsuit. CNN has also reached out to an attorney for Bernal’s estate and other defendants named in the lawsuits for comment. Bernal died in October 2022, according to an obituary. The lawsuit comes amid a series of allegations of abuse and wrongdoing at the national governing bodies that oversee top-level youth sports, such as USA Swimming. For example, in 2021, USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and their insurers agreed to pay $380 million to settle victims of Larry Nassar, the former Olympic doctor who sexually abused girls for decades. Jon Little, Le’s attorney, told CNN that there is a culture that allows this abuse. “While what happened to her is sad, it is far from unusual,” Little said. “People like Larry Nassar and Bernal, who produce Olympic medalists – as long as these guys produce medals and money, they can literally rape children. The system is designed to protect producers. Getting rid of Nassar and Bernal doesn’t change the problem.” The lawyer said Le filed the lawsuit to let children know they are not alone. “She felt alone then, but not anymore,” Little said. According to the lawsuit, Le trained and competed with Bernal’s Gator Swim Club of New England, known as BGSC-NE, from ages 13 to 18. When she was 15 and Bernal was in her mid-60s, he kissed her after practice, and the sexual contact escalated over the next few years, the lawsuit says. “While in high school, Amanda began experiencing panic attacks, which she believed at the time were solely due to the stress of swimming; she knew (she) was afraid to perform poorly because she would be punished,” the complaint said. “Amanda also experienced the consequences of the sexual abuse, although she did not realize it at the time.” During several late-night team outings, Le slept in Bernal’s hotel room, the lawsuit states. From her freshman year of high school through her senior year, she skipped school and the coach picked her up and took her to his house for sex, according to the lawsuit. Le attended college from 2011 to 2014, and as a junior Bernal impregnated Le and then paid for an abortion, the lawsuit says. The abuse continued even though some adults knew about it, the lawsuit said. In one case, Le’s mother found her diary, which detailed her relationship with Bernal, and Le’s parents then showed it to another coach at Bernal’s Gator Swim Club, the lawsuit said. That coach did not contact police and “did nothing to protect Amanda,” the complaint states. In addition, USA Swimming “was aware of complaints regarding Bernal’s inappropriate behavior toward underage female swimmers” before Le took up the sport, the suit alleges. The lawsuit accuses Bernal, USA Swimming and other defendants of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The lawsuit further accuses Bernal of sexual abuse and the others of negligence. Bernal was previously named in an August 2021 lawsuit in which Kimberly Stines accused him of a “five-year campaign of systemic emotional and sexual abuse” that began in 1976. is not a defendant in the lawsuit. Little, who also represents Stines, said the lawsuit is ongoing and a trial is expected sometime in late 2025 or early 2026. He said the system failed to protect Stines. “The system failed her and now she feels guilty that there is an Amanda Le,” he said.

A former high-level swimmer accused her Hall of Fame coach of sexually assaulting her about 15 years ago when she was a minor, claiming that USA Swimming and other organizations and individuals knew about the abuse and did nothing to to stop it, according to a federal lawsuit. .

Amanda Le’s suit was filed against “the individuals and corporate entities who allowed a known child molester to work as a youth swim coach, who supported him for decades with infrastructure, position and prestige, and who gave him full access to a never- cycle of young girls to prey on,” the complaint said. “Amanda Le was one of those girls.”

The 33-page lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, alleges sexual abuse by Joseph Bernal, the former Fordham and Harvard swimming coach who was part of the U.S. coaching staff at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. multiple Olympic medalists and world record holders and was inducted into the American Swim Coaches Hall of Fame in 2015, the lawsuit said.

He also founded Bernal’s Gator Swim Club, an amateur swimming club, and coached Le from 2006 to 2010. Bernal sexually abused Le from about 2008 to 2014, the lawsuit said.

In February 2016, USA Swimming permanently banned Bernal for his abuse of an unnamed “Athlete A,” according to the lawsuit. That athlete was Le, the suit says.

Bernal is mentioned on a USA Swimming website that lists individuals who have been permanently suspended or ineligible for membership due to “sexual misconduct.”

“USA Swimming is deeply committed to the safety and well-being of all its members,” the organization’s then-spokesman Scott Leightman said in a statement to The Boston Globe in 2016. “The mission of the Safe Sport program is to raise awareness to reduce the risk of abuse in sport and our organization will not tolerate violations of our Code of Conduct.”

CNN contacted USA Swimming for comment on the lawsuit. CNN has also reached out to an attorney for Bernal’s estate and other defendants named in the lawsuits for comment.

Bernal died in October 2022, according to an obituary.

The lawsuit comes amid a series of allegations of abuse and wrongdoing at the national governing bodies that oversee top-level youth sports, such as USA Swimming. For example, in 2021, USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and their insurers agreed to pay $380 million to settle victims of Larry Nassar, the former Olympic doctor who sexually abused girls for decades.

Jon Little, Le’s attorney, told CNN that there is a culture that allows this abuse.

“While what happened to her is sad, it is far from unusual,” Little said. “People like Larry Nassar and Bernal, who produce Olympic medalists – as long as these guys produce medals and money, they can literally rape children. The system is designed to protect producers. Getting rid of Nassar and Bernal doesn’t change the problem.”

The lawyer said Le filed the lawsuit to let children know they are not alone.

“She felt alone then, but not anymore,” Little said.

What the lawsuit claims

According to the lawsuit, Le trained and competed with Bernal’s Gator Swim Club of New England, known as BGSC-NE, from ages 13 to 18. When she was 15 and Bernal was in her mid-60s, he kissed her after practice, and the sexual contact escalated over the next few years, the lawsuit said.

“While in high school, Amanda started having panic attacks, which at the time she thought were solely due to the stress of swimming; she knew (she) was afraid to perform poorly because she would be punished,” the complaint said. “Amanda also experienced the consequences of the sexual abuse, although she did not realize it at the time.”

During several late-night team outings, Le slept in Bernal’s hotel room, the lawsuit said. From her freshman year of high school through her senior year, she skipped school and the coach picked her up and took her to his house for sex, according to the lawsuit.

Le attended college from 2011 to 2014, and as a junior, Bernal impregnated Le and then paid for an abortion, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, the abuse continued even though some adults knew about it. In one case, Le’s mother found her diary, which detailed her relationship with Bernal, and Le’s parents then showed it to another coach at Bernal’s Gator Swim Club, the lawsuit said. That coach did not contact police and “did nothing to protect Amanda,” according to the complaint.

In addition, USA Swimming “was aware of complaints regarding Bernal’s inappropriate behavior toward underage swimmers” before Le took up the sport, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit accuses Bernal, USA Swimming and other defendants of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The lawsuit further accuses Bernal of sexual abuse and the others of negligence.

Bernal was previously named in an August 2021 lawsuit in which Kimberly Stines accused him of a “five-year campaign of systemic emotional and sexual abuse” that began in 1976. USA Swimming is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Little, who also represents Stines, said the lawsuit is ongoing and a trial is expected sometime in late 2025 or early 2026. He said the system has failed to protect Stines.

“The system failed her and now she feels guilty that there is an Amanda Le,” he said.