Suit: Teen was lured to UCLA, molested by coach

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.