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Suit: Teen was lured to UCLA, molested by coach

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Track coach Conrad Mainwaring, the subject of a yearlong ESPN investigation into decades of alleged sexual abuse, used his relationship with UCLA athletic department employees to woo and molest a high school boy, according to a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday against the coach and the University of California Board of Regents.

Mainwaring bragged about his contacts in the UCLA athletic department and promised to introduce the teenager to university recruiters and track team members if he came to Los Angeles from his home in Georgia, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that one UCLA athletic department employee provided school gear to Mainwaring, who turned around and sent items as gifts to the boy. He also sent the boy letters on UCLA stationery, which Mainwaring also received from the employee, according to the lawsuit.

Two UCLA employees — one current and one former — are identified in the lawsuit but not named as defendants in the case.

When the boy went to Los Angeles to train with Mainwaring for a week in the summer of 2011, Mainwaring molested him at his Westwood apartment, according to the lawsuit. The boy was 17 and had just completed his junior year. The lawsuit also alleges that one UCLA athletic department employee was present with Mainwaring and the boy when the coach discussed the sexual abuse in coded language, and that the employee understood what was going on.

Mainwaring, who ran in the 1976 Olympics for the tiny island nation of Antigua and later coached two-time gold medalist Felix Sanchez, was never employed by UCLA. The school’s track, Drake Stadium, is open to the public, and Mainwaring used it daily to train his “squad,” according to more than a dozen athletes who worked with him there over the years and spoke to ESPN during its yearlong investigation. Mainwaring was banned from the track in 2016 after the school received several complaints that he had sexually assaulted some of the athletes he trained there.

In response to calls and emails from ESPN, the UCLA athletic department replied Wednesday that it “has no comment on this active litigation.” Calls and emails to other university spokespersons were not immediately returned. The general counsel for the UC Board of Regents also did not respond to messages seeking comment. Mainwaring also could not be reached.

In August of last year, ESPN reported that 41 men described being sexually abused by Mainwaring over a 44-year span that covered two continents, four states and several universities. Since then, the number of accusers has grown to 52. Of those, 15 told ESPN they were first abused by Mainwaring in the Los Angeles area, several having first met him at UCLA.

Virtually all of the men described meeting Mainwaring through his work as an independent track coach, and they said he sexually abused them under the guise of mental training designed to help them excel in sports and life. Most of the men said Mainwaring was so masterful at psychological manipulation that they didn’t realize or acknowledge they had been sexually assaulted until decades later.

Last year, as a result of the ESPN investigation, Mainwaring was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with one felony count of sexual battery by fraud. He pleaded not guilty, and his case is winding through the courts. It’s not clear if the plaintiff in the civil case, who’s now 26 and not named, intends to pursue criminal charges, but his case would fall within California’s 10-year statute of limitations for the alleged crime, according to LAPD Detective Sharlene Johnson, one of the two primary investigators in the current case against Mainwaring.

“If he is willing to come forward, we would definitely like to talk to him,” Johnson said of the plaintiff. “It’s possible that we could file his case and that it could be added [to the current case], which could only be beneficial.”

In February, two men sued Syracuse University, alleging they were molested there by Mainwaring in the 1980s and that the school had failed to act on “credible reports of sexual abuse by Mainwaring.”

The lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that Mainwaring recruited members to the “squad” by “implying he worked for and assisted with recruiting student athletes for UCLA.”

It says that one UCLA athletic department employee knew Mainwaring was making the false claims but did nothing to stop or correct them. It also alleges the employee provided Mainwaring with items such as UCLA stationery and “UCLA-branded backpacks and T-shirts” to assist in recruiting members to the “squad.”

When the teenager went to Los Angeles, according to the lawsuit, the UCLA employee was present in Mainwaring’s apartment when the coach used coded language to discuss the boy’s “ability to hold an erection or control his ejaculations,” and that it was obvious the employee understood what Mainwaring was talking about. The plaintiff alleges that under the guise of post-workout physical therapy sessions, Mainwaring sexually abused him.

The lawsuit says the plaintiff’s father is a former professional football player who himself had trained with Mainwaring in the 1980s. It doesn’t say whether the father alleges he was abused by Mainwaring. In 2007, when his son was in middle school and focusing on track and football, the dad connected his son with his former coach over the phone. The lawsuit says the dad wanted his boy to “have a professional mentor and trainer to supplement his local athletic program.”

Soon, the boy and Mainwaring were speaking on the phone frequently about training and life. “With training as a ruse, Defendant Mainwaring manipulated his way into becoming a huge part of Plaintiff’s life, gaining Plaintiff’s confidence and trust,” the lawsuit alleges.

Mainwaring, the lawsuit says, insisted on secrecy about his training techniques, instructing the boy not to tell anyone, including his parents. Eventually, Mainwaring began directing the boy during phone conversations to masturbate and try to control his erection under the guise of mental training. The allegations mirror what ESPN was told by dozens of other men who say they were abused by Mainwaring.

A few years later, as the boy was finishing his junior year, Mainwaring persuaded him to visit Los Angeles, meet with UCLA recruiters and tour the campus, according to the lawsuit. Mainwaring told the boy to bring his transcripts and test scores so that he could “run [his] grades by UCLA.”

“It felt like almost more than an official visit,” the plaintiff told ESPN in an interview. “It was like he had a secret ‘in.'”

The lawsuit says the boy and his parents agreed to the trip, and the boy made the visit in July 2011 by himself. Mainwaring “coordinated with UCLA” to organize a campus tour and arranged for the boy to stay one night in the dorm of a member of the track team, according to the lawsuit, which also says the boy was given a “Summer Orientation” backpack during his visit.

Mark Fainaru-Wada has been a senior writer at ESPN since 2007. Reach him at mark.fainaru-wada@espn.com. Mike Kessler is the investigative editor at KPCC, a National Public Radio affiliate in Los Angeles. Reach him at mikekessler@protonmail.com.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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