Athletes for Athletes, Former Olympians Respond to US Olympic Committee Investigation into Current Rowing Team Head Coach Mike Teti
SAN DIEGO, July 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Announced today by ‘Athletes for Athletes,’ Olympians are responding to the stalled U.S. Olympic Committee investigation into accusations of unhealthy culture and abusive coaching at USRowing. As athletes compete at the Olympic Games under Head U.S. Men’s Coach Mike Teti, the subject of inquiries into abusive coaching practices dating back to 2002; current and past rowers are speaking out about the ongoing non-transparent U.S. Olympic investigation, with results expected before the start of this summer’s Games still unreleased.
The current investigation by an outside firm hired by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), Arent Fox LLP, began in January 2021. It covers four areas: the Olympic team selection process, mental and physical health resources, allocation of financial assistance to athletes, and fear of retaliation for speaking out. The organization’s culture of fear and distrust dates back to previous program investigations, including ones focused on Teti, the Cal University and current Olympic men’s eight crew coach.
Athletes who are now speaking out to question why the current investigation is still ongoing, with no results released publicly, include nine U.S. rowers who spoke to the Associated Press (AP) about abuse received under current U.S. Olympic Rowing Team Coach Mike Teti. The article, published July 18 in newspapers around the country, reports these athletes “said they have direct knowledge of Teti physically threatening athletes or verbally attacking them if they challenged him in any way.”
AP quotes a former US national rowing team member who witnessed Coach Teti threaten another rower two years ago outside the Oakland boathouse, “I have heard Mike Teti tell athletes, ‘If you take one more step, I am going to punch you … I’m going to kill you.'”
In response to the stalled investigation and its impact on the health and safety of current and future Olympians, San Diego lawyer Willam J. Caldarelli, who represents U.S. rowers who allege mistreatment by Teti, asked Congress to monitor the USOPC investigation. In a letter to U.S. Olympic oversight committees, Caldarelli asked members to help guarantee the process has been fair and transparent.
“Although significant allegations have been made in the past, no meaningful action has been taken to address the athletes’ complaints, and therefore the conduct has continued,” the letter said. “Similar concerns about the lack of action taken in response to previous complaints were raised to the Congressional oversight committees on February 11, 2020.”
In January, current and past athletes were given new hope that the long-standing allegations into abusive coaching practices and a retaliatory culture within the organization would finally be addressed. Testimony collected from numerous athletes by Arent Fox LLC identified Teti as a focal point for the investigation. However, in the past six months no information or next steps has been publicly released. In April, both Arent Fox LLC and the USOPC responded to inquiries that the investigation would be completed soon. Recent investigations into USRowing (2008) and Mike Teti/Cal (2016, 2017) have produced similar non results, with the organization protecting the brand over its athletes and quietly sweeping away concerns.
Describing the effect on Olympians of Teti’s long-time abuse of young athletes, one rower told AP, “Internationally, we routinely show up hamstrung by external things,” adding that rowers endure “systemic mind games” and “bullying.” Another athlete shared “Mike Teti is extremely verbally abusive and manipulative. He uses fear, your finances, your place on the team and even physical intimidation against you.”
“If the U.S. Olympic Committee is not going to prioritize protecting athletes during Olympic years, then when will they,” said former Olympian and US rower Greg Ruckman. “Our athletes deserve better. Our sport and our country deserve better.”
“It is excellent to see this come to light. Over 20 years ago, I made a choice to prioritize my self-respect rather than subject myself to Teti’s abuse. It meant giving up on my dream of representing our country and I still debate the decision,” Twitter post: @MikeLennig.
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SOURCE Athletes for Athletes
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