Reports that a Los Angeles track coach and former Olympic hurdler is accused of sexually assaulting more than 30 athletes over 44 years are grim reminders of the need for strict oversight to guard against predatory coaches.
Conrad Mainwaring was arrested Wednesday and charged with sexual battery in connection with an incident in 2016 when he sexually assaulted a male college athlete “under the guise of physical therapy and metal focus training,” according to police. Mainwaring, 67, competed for Antigua in the 1976 Olympics as a hurdler. He has coached high school and college track and field athletes and has been accused of sexually abusing more than 30 males over the course of 44 years. Some of his alleged victims were teenagers and the youngest was allegedly 14 when the abuse occurred.
Mainwaring is alleged to have used his Olympic credentials and status as a prominent private track coach to manipulate athletes and sexually abuse them. One Los Angeles Police Department detective noted that Mainwaring was “using his position as a coach with athletes who are so focused and driven to be perfect at their craft that he was able to victimize them without them even realizing it.”
We have seen this too often in recent years, including in scandals involving USA Swimming, USA Gymnastics, and Ohio State athletes, to name a few. Those tragic scandals involved perpetrators who used young athletes’ athletic aspirations to manipulate and abuse them. But they also involved institutional cover-up, as adults in position of authority allegedly knew of abuse and did nothing to stop it or protect the athletes.
It is too early to tell who knew what and when regarding Mainwaring, although at least one school, UCLA, reportedly confirmed that Mainwaring was barred from campus in 2016. Regardless, any institutions at which Mainwaring coached athletes deserve a great deal of scrutiny for their oversight, or lack of it, regarding Mainwaring.