Swimming coach Mirande suspended after accusations of sexual abuse

By Amy Shipley
Wednesday, April 21, 2010; D02

A local swimming coach was suspended indefinitely by his club team in Manassas on Tuesday, a day after he was accused in a civil lawsuit filed in Missouri of sexually abusing a high school senior when he coached there in 2006-07.

Occoquan Swimming's board president Brad Hughes wrote in an e-mail to parents that Robert Mirande, who had been coaching the club's elite high school swimmers since last summer, would not participate in any coaching activities "pending conclusion of ongoing investigations."

Hughes further noted that no allegations of misconduct had been raised against Mirande since he relocated to Manassas but that "the safety and welfare of our children is forever our highest priority."

"The news today is troubling and unexpected," Hughes said in the e-mail. "We humbly ask for your cooperation to let the investigation continue, to let the facts come out, and for the most accurate conclusions to be drawn."

According to allegations contained in a lawsuit filed Monday in circuit court in Independence, Mo., Mirande engaged in sexual misconduct toward a female swimmer beginning in 2006 when she was under 18 and training daily with the Kansas City [Mo.] Dolphins swim club.

The lawsuit also charged Occoquan Swimming coach and general manager Aaron Dean -- who then worked with Mirande at the Missouri swim club -- with failing to protect the female swimmer from the inappropriate conduct. USA Swimming, the Missouri swim club and Missouri Valley Swimming were also named as defendants in the suit.

Hughes said in his e-mail that Dean would not be suspended because he "has no misconduct allegations."

"They have taken what we would consider to be necessary actions," said Greg York, the board chairman of Potomac Valley Swimming, the USA Swimming-sanctioned governing body for swimming for the Greater Washington region.

Dean joined the Occoquan Swimming staff in 2008; Mirande was hired "to work cooperatively with Aaron Dean" July 19, 2009, according to the Occoquan Swimming Web site. The Web site says Mirande has coached more than 20 Olympic trials qualifiers in more than 20 years as a head coach.

PVS Executive Director John Ertter said Dean and Mirande would be barred from participating on any PVS committees or holding any office pending the resolution of the lawsuit and an investigation into the allegations against Mirande by USA Swimming.

Mirande and Dean did not return e-mails and calls seeking comment. Hughes also did not return e-mails and calls. The club declined to comment in an e-mail.

In the lawsuit, Mirande is alleged to have provided the plaintiff with alcohol, made sexual advances and engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with her from late in her senior year of high school through the fall of her freshman year of college. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff's parents filed a formal complaint with Dean, who informed them that Mirande had been fired in April of 2008 and was out of state looking for another job.

The plaintiff, identified in the lawsuit by the initials L.A.S., dropped out of college and has been undergoing twice-weekly therapy, according to her attorney Lynn R. Johnson.

The family had been told Mirande "would not be coaching again, and lo and behold, Aaron Dean hired him for that swim club," Johnson said.

Since 2006, USA Swimming has done background checks on all coaching candidates that screen for charges involving sexual misconduct or illegal drug use, among other things. USA Swimming turned allegations raised against Mirande over to an outside investigator in February, according to USA Swimming spokesperson Jamie Fabos Olsen.

Mirande could be barred from coaching by USA Swimming pending the outcome of that investigation.

"We do not require criminal charges to take action," Fabos Olsen said.

In related news, the PVS board of directors voted Tuesday for an immediate ban on cameras or recording devices in locker rooms and behind the starting blocks to thwart possible opportunities for sexual abuse or misconduct, while making plans to put on a sexual harassment workshop that would be mandatory for member clubs to attend, Ertter said.

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