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Former US national coach denies lawsuit claims

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Sports,Olympics

Former U.S. national swimming coach Mark Schubert has denied allegations that he wrongly fired another coach after she became aware of abuse allegations within his Southern California club.

Schubert's attorney, Richard Foster, filed documents this week in Orange County Superior Court describing the lawsuit by Dia Rianda as being "replete with distortions and out-and-out lies."

Rianda, a coach and philanthropist within the swimming community, said she was hired by Schubert last year to assist at the Golden West Swim Club. She claims Schubert fired her July 11 after she learned of abuse allegations against his close friend, Bill Jewell, and strongly objected to him working at the club.

Schubert's response claims he shouldn't have even been named in Rianda's suit, saying she "has no conceivable claim against him personally" and should have filed the case solely against Golden West.

The suit includes "lengthy and false allegations specifically designed to unfairly damage his reputation and his professional standing, knowing that if her statements were made in any other forum, she would be liable for defamation," the response says. "The manner in which this complaint was drafted evidences that (Rianda) and her attorney are on a mission to unfairly destroy Schubert's reputation regardless of the truth and in disregard of clear legal principles and ethics."

Rianda's attorney, Robert Allard, said the lawsuit's only goal is to expose what happened at Golden West.

"Our lawsuit is clear," Allard said. "Bill Jewell was engaging in alleged inappropriate sexual behavior and Mark Schubert protected Jewell by firing Dia Rianda. The response from Schubert mirrors the lack of personal responsibility that would come from the mouth of a Jerry Sandusky," the former football coach sentenced to at least 30 years in prison on Tuesday for his role in the Penn State sexual abuse scandal.

USA Swimming has not commented on the allegations against Jewell, saying it doesn't comment "on open investigations."

Schubert's response says he was not aware of any improper conduct by his friend. "While Jewell may have touched some swimmers, all such touchings were also in open view, in the act of coaching and in line with USA Swimming's guidelines," it says.

Schubert maintains that Rianda was fired "for legitimate reasons."

"She created problems with the Golden West Swim Club's board of directors by being uncooperative, rude and by making negative comments behind their backs," the response says. "Her conduct as a coach was substandard. She bullied swimmers, was rude to potential new club members and sent condescending and rude e-mails to club members. She was extremely unpopular and unaccepted by the club's senior swimmers. Notably, she was rude to Golden West College's staff and water polo coaches, threatening the club's future use of the pool."

While Rianda's suit is based primarily on her dismissal at Golden West, it includes several other alleged incidents within a sport that has been rocked by widespread claims of sexual misconduct involving coaches and underage athletes.

The suit claims Schubert hired a private investigator to take photos of another prominent coach, Sean Hutchison, engaged in improper sexual activities while working with the elite FAST program in Fullerton, Calif. It also says Schubert covered up allegations against prominent swim coach Rick Curl, who was banned for life by USA Swimming last month after it was revealed he had an inappropriate relationship with a 13-year-old swimmer in the 1980s.

Hutchison denied he was involved with one of his swimmers, and USA Swimming cleared him of any wrongdoing. But he left the FAST program and did not work with any prominent athletes leading up to the London Games — a stunning turn for a coach who had been a rising star of the profession.

Perhaps the most stunning allegation in Rianda's suit is that Schubert received a $625,000 payment from USA Swimming to keep from going public with embarrassing information.

In his response, Schubert denies that he hired a private investigator to follow Hutchison ("simply false") and points out that the swimmer who made the allegations against Curl, Kelley Davies Currin, had already reached a confidential settlement with the disgraced coach before she swam for Schubert at the University of Texas.

"Schubert notified USA Swimming of the abuse, as did the swimmer, and USA Swimming subsequently banned Mr. Curl from coaching for life," the response says. "Plaintiff's claim that Schubert concealed this information is patently false."

As for the alleged confidential agreement with USA Swimming, the response says "this is absolutely false. While Schubert did enter into a settlement agreement with USA Swimming, it had no clause preventing Schubert from reporting sex abuse. To the contrary, as publicly stated by USA Swimming, Schubert agreed to follow all of USA Swimming's regulations, including the duty to promptly report evidence that any coach was sexually abusing a swimmer."

Schubert's settlement apparently stems from his firing as national team coach two years ago. No reason has been given for his dismissal, either by Schubert or USA Swimming. He returned to the deck at Golden West and worked with 40-year-old Janet Evans during her unsuccessful Olympic comeback.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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