US Olympics bans school board head

Larry Wit­tig in­ves­ti­gated by SafeS­port on al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah M. Wo­j­cik

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.”

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