US Olympics bans school board head
Larry Wittig investigated by SafeSport on allegations of sexual misconduct
The president of the Tamaqua Area School Board has been banned from participating in programs or events tied to U.S. Olympic sports, including rowing, following an investigation into allegations of “sexual misconduct involving a minor” by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
The organization, the independent investigative agency for the U.S. Olympic Committee, would not provide specifics about the case or say when its probe began.
Larry Wittig told The Morning Call on Wednesday he is
appealing the decision, which was rendered on Sept. 27.
“I fully expect to be exonerated,” Wittig said.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that SafeSport launched an investigation in 2018 into allegations of sexual misconduct related to Wittig’s time as a rowing coach at the University of Pennsylvania.
Multiple women told the newspaper that Wittig either touched them inappropriately or made comments they found uncomfortable while he worked as their coach, the newspaper’s investigation said. One of the former crew team members described an extramarital relationship with Wittig while she was 17. She told The Inquirer said she believed the relationship was consensual at the time, but later came to believe it was problematic based on the power dynamic and the age difference between herself and then 32year-old Wittig.
The Morning Call could not determine Wednesday whether The Inquirer’s findings were what SafeSport investigated.
SafeSport deemed Wittig to be “permanently ineligible to participate, in any capacity, in any program, activity, event or competition sponsored by, organized by or under the auspices of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committees, any National Governing Bodies and/or any Local Affiliated Organizations or at any facility” under such jurisdictions.
The probe triggered the suspension of Wittig’s membership at the prestigious Vesper Boat Club, one of the amateur rowing clubs on Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill in Philadelphia. Though private, the club falls under SafeSport’s jurisdiction because it is a member of U.S. Rowing.
It was unclear Wednesday if he would get that back upon a successful appeal. Efforts to reach leaders of the club were unsuccessful.
In an interview, Wittig denied any wrongdoing and said he pushed for SafeSport to expedite its report in the hopes of clearing his name.
“I deny any behavior that would prompt an investigation — then or now,” he said.
Wittig said he felt compelled to fight the probe’s results because rowing is such an enormous part of his life and identity. An independent arbitrator will determine the outcome of the appeal — a ruling that is binding and final, according to SafeSport.
“Maybe a smarter person would have just dropped it and it wouldn’t have made the papers and raised eyebrows,” Wittig said. “But I know what happened in the 1980s. I know in my heart I didn’t do anything.”