An Outside the Lines Investigation
44 years. 41 allegations. Now the past is catching up.
Editor's note: This story, which appeared originally on Aug. 1, 2019, is being republished with the debut of The Running Man, a new podcast series about the Mainwaring case from ESPN Investigates.
It's a quiet, early morning at UCLA's Drake Stadium, the sun still low. The world's greatest track athletes have run here through the years, in front of thousands of cheering fans. But on this Tuesday in June 2016, only a dozen or so anonymous men and women stretch and tick off laps.
Among them is Benjamin, a wiry, 20-year-old UCLA sophomore. He is not on the Bruins' track team, but he is training toward his dream of making his home country's national squad. As he stretches, Benjamin (who asked that his real name not be used) sees a figure walking stiffly and deliberately toward him across the infield. The man comes into focus: early 30s, flowing blond hair, piercing blue eyes. He looks like an athlete, firm and thin, but he's wearing street clothes.
The stranger approaches Benjamin; he nods in the direction of an older man in a track jacket and white Adidas cap, perched on a folding chair about 10 feet away.
"Do you train with this guy?" the stranger asks.
Benjamin hesitates, partly because his coach, a former Olympian and trainer of elite athletes, always has demanded secrecy: Our training is our business.
The stranger continues.
"Do you know his name?"
It occurs to Benjamin that he actually doesn't know his coach's full name.
"Coach Avondale," Benjamin says. "Look, you can go talk to him if you want."
"No, he can f--- himself," comes the reply. "His name is Conrad Montgomery Avondale Mainwaring. He's a serial child molester, and he molested me when I was at UCLA."
"I trusted this guy, I thought it was OK, but what he did to me f---ed me up for the next 10 years."
The stranger keeps talking, but the words are mostly a blur to Benjamin. Finally, the man turns and approaches the coach, raising his cellphone to record the encounter.
"You're going to f---ing jail!" the man says.
The man lays into the coach for what seems like forever. Benjamin tries to focus on his workout, but it's no use. He gathers his stuff and walks off the track, trying to process the stranger's words: He molested me at UCLA.
What the stranger didn't know was that Benjamin himself had been molested by Mainwaring -- only nine hours earlier. Nor did the stranger realize that he had just pulled a thread that would begin unraveling the mystery and misdeeds of Conrad Mainwaring, a former Olympian who coached Olympic-level athletes, including a two-time gold medalist.
In June 2018, Outside the Lines began investigating a tip that Mainwaring allegedly had molested a 12-year-old boy in the 1970s and might have continued such activity to the present day. The tip led to a 13-month reporting effort that uncovered scores of allegations spanning five decades and two continents -- and sparked a police investigation that resulted in Mainwaring's recent arrest.
Those who have accused Mainwaring, now mostly middle-aged men, were interviewed multiple times each and over hundreds of hours in total. Efforts were made to corroborate their stories, including speaking with family members, friends and spouses they had confided in over the years, as well as reviewing letters, journals, photos, official documents and news articles.
As startling as the sheer number of accusations was the fact that for years Mainwaring -- who rejected repeated interview requests -- remained a cipher, a man with almost no public footprint who was able to stay one step ahead of the allegations and the law.
A Family Secret
Andrew Zenoff says his older brother, Victor, spun into a life of drugs and risky behavior after his alleged abuse by Conrad Mainwaring.
“Conrad’s molesting was a huge contributor to his unhappiness … and ultimately his death.”
IN MAY 2018, a phone rings at the Marin County, California, office of Andrew Zenoff, an entrepreneur who initially struck it big two decades ago by selling a pillow for nursing mothers. "My Brest Friend," he called his invention. Zenoff grabs his cellphone. It's a friend -- a reporter -- following up on an earlier conversation:
"That guy you told me about -- the one you said molested your brother back in the '70s ... what's his name again?" the reporter asks.
Zenoff, now 54, recounts the tragically short life of his older brother, Victor: They grew up on the East Coast in the 1970s. Victor was easygoing and affable. Everybody seemed to like him, and he excelled in most sports -- basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer.
Each summer, starting when Victor was 12, the Zenoff brothers went to Camp Greylock for Boys, a sleepaway sports camp in New England. There, Victor developed a close relationship with a certain counselor, a man whose distinctive qualities drew campers to him. He carried an aura of authority and spoke in a proper British accent. Most impressively, he was an Olympian. His name was Conrad Mainwaring.
"He was sort of like a hero figure to my brother," Zenoff says.
But Victor changed over three summers at camp. By 15, he was consumed by drugs and risky behavior, and the family had moved to the West Coast. One time, he rolled his car and nearly killed himself. After that, his parents bought him a used highway patrol car, thinking it would be "a safe tank," but he was pulled over driving faster than 100 mph.
In the summer of 1980, Victor was approaching his 18th birthday -- barely out of high school -- when he told his mother he had been sexually abused by Mainwaring repeatedly over several summers. The next day, Victor left on a camping trip to California's Yosemite National Park with a friend he had met at a Grateful Dead show. A few days later, officers knocked on Nisha Zenoff's front door. Victor was dead, found at the bottom of a 600-foot cliff. Police deemed it a hiking accident.
Andrew says he never had Mainwaring as a counselor and was never approached by him, and he didn't learn of the alleged abuse until after Victor's death. At that point, he says, the Zenoffs were too devastated to tell anyone else what Victor had confided to his mother.
Besides, maybe Victor was Mainwaring's only victim.
‘Seduced By His Interest’
Vernon Sharples says Mainwaring molested him in the 1970s.
IN THE SUMMER of 1975, the textile hub of Leicester, England, a gloomy, downtrodden city 100 miles north of London, had little to offer 15-year-old Vernon Sharples. When he wasn't working as an assistant at a sporting goods store, he was smoking cigarettes and pilfering alcohol from his parents, who he says weren't very attentive.
And then one day, Conrad Mainwaring walked into the store where Sharples worked, MC Sports. "I was aware that he was going to the Olympics because he used to come into the shop and try and get a bit of stuff for free," says Sharples, now a slender, balding 59-year-old.
Though not good enough to make England's national team, the 23-year-old Mainwaring was to compete as a hurdler for his native Antigua at the upcoming 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Mainwaring's athletic accomplishments interested Sharples, but he was most taken by the attention the track star heaped on him at the store. So when Mainwaring invited Sharples to train with what he called his "squad" of athletes at Saffron Lane Athletics Stadium in Leicester, the boy leaped at the chance.
"I was just seduced by his interest," he says.
The coach preached sobriety and celibacy, citing booze and girls as obstacles to athletic success. He had a word for messing around with members of the opposite sex: wenching. Mainwaring was an avid reader and classical music aficionado who seemed, at least to a kid from Leicester, to know everything. Some evenings after practice, the two would ride a bus downtown, where the coach -- he went simply by "Conrad" -- took Sharples to a Chinese restaurant and treated him to chicken and chips. Often, the coach would talk about a group of other select youngsters he trained -- his "international squad" -- at a summer camp in America.
During one of their conversations, Mainwaring explained that he was doing research in psychology and wanted Sharples to be one of his subjects. The fieldwork, Mainwaring told the teenager, involved masturbation habits. It lasted several weeks, during which time Sharples says the coach asked about frequency, timing, duration and other aspects of self-gratification. At one point, Sharples says, Mainwaring told him to see how long he could go without indulging.
A PATH OF ALLEGED ABUSE
Outside the Lines pieced together the details of Conrad Mainwaring's life and identified allegations against him that span from England in the 1970s to Los Angeles in 2016.
Oct. 2, 1951
Born in Antigua as Conrad Avondale Montgomery Mainwarren.
Mainwaring, who has grown up in England, leaves the grammar school he attended in the city of Leicester, as shown in this class photo.
Mainwaring meets Vernon Sharples (above), his earliest known accuser, in a Leicester sporting goods store.
Mid- to late-1970s
Mainwaring works at Camp Greylock for Boys. Seven men now say he molested them there, including Michael Waxman (above, right), shown with the coach in a yearbook image.
Mainwaring competes for Antigua-Barbuda in the 110m and 400m hurdles during the Montreal Summer Olympics.
Mainwaring forms a "squad," including several high school students, while working at Syracuse University. Fourteen men, including Robert Bender (above), now allege they were molested during this time.
Mainwaring works in the admissions office at Colgate University. Two men now allege they were molested during this time.
Mainwaring works at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech. Three men now allege they were molested during this time.
Mainwaring works in the Disability Services and Programs office at the University of Southern California.
Sharples files a police statement in England, alleging he was abused in the 1970s.
Mainwaring coaches in the Los Angeles area. Fourteen men say they were molested during this time.
Mainwaring helps coach Felix Sanchez to Olympic gold in the 400m hurdles in Athens. He would repeat eight years later in London, again with Mainwaring as a coach.
UCLA runner David O'Boyle is allegedly abused.
Mainwaring's name is mentioned in a comment on an obscure blog written by Tym De Santo (above). The first mention linking Mainwaring to abuse wouldn't appear on the blog until 2013.
June 27, 2016
Mainwaring allegedly molests a runner at his student apartment on the UCLA campus.
Outside the Lines begins investigating Mainwaring, eventually identifying 41 alleged victims.
The former UCLA runner allegedly molested in 2016 contacts an ESPN reporter and later meets with LAPD investigators.
"He just kept on saying that I'm this amazing guy ... kind of showering me with compliments," Sharples says. "And so I just went along with it."
After workouts, Mainwaring gave Sharples and other squad members massages; he called it "physiotherapy." Calling it "massage [would] really wind him up," Sharples says. One day, Sharples was the last squad member to receive treatment, lying face up on a table when Mainwaring instructed him to "think up an erection" and then "think it down." All part of the research, he was told. Sharples says this happened a few times before the sessions went to a new level: "He would rub my penis over my shorts ... until I ejaculated."
More than 40 years later, Sharples can't recall how long the alleged abuse lasted. At the time, he didn't think of it as abuse; Mainwaring used clinical language, never sexualizing the "physiotherapy." Sharples doesn't remember why Mainwaring stopped, but he says, "When it did stop, I remember feeling almost rejected."
Sharples continued to seek his coach's approval throughout the remainder of high school. Although communication diminished, the conversations were meaningful, he says. Often, talk turned to Mainwaring's international squad in America.
When Sharples turned 18, Mainwaring invited him to cross the Atlantic and work as a counselor at Camp Greylock for Boys in Massachusetts. Sharples didn't need much persuading; he felt honored.
By then, the summer of 1978, Mainwaring was well on his way to establishing a dramatic legacy at Greylock. And soon, he would be in America to stay.
David Allinson (not pictured) says Mainwaring promised him greatness if he followed his direction. Mainwaring worked with hundreds of boys at Camp Greylock, as shown in this photo from a camp yearbook.
“He started down this path of, ‘How bad do you want the Olympics?’ I said, ‘More than anything in my life.’”
ON THE WESTERN edge of Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains, is a summer camp where boys have gone to play for more than a century.
Camp Greylock spreads across 300 acres near the town of Becket, a bucolic setting of top-flight sports facilities -- 15 tennis courts, five baseball fields, three soccer fields, two 100-yard flag football fields, an in-line hockey rink, a nine-hole golf course, a climbing wall, a zip line, a lake and a weight room -- and cabins nestled amid abundant forest.
The camp was founded in 1916 by three brothers, who sold it to a group of former campers in the late 1940s. Those men would operate Camp Greylock for Boys for the next 50 years, until it was sold again in 1994 to a new generation of former Greylock employees. Through the years, the camp has catered to the children of wealth -- the sons of entertainers and sports executives, politicians and architects. This year's tuition is $12,800 for seven weeks.
It's unclear how or exactly when Mainwaring arrived at Greylock, but he was a stalwart for at least five summers. He was a captivating figure to many of the young men and junior counselors, famous for his participation in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Even if the campers knew he had finished last in his preliminary heats in the 400- and 110-meter hurdles, it didn't seem to matter.
The athletic fields at Camp Greylock were surrounded by woods, as seen in this map from a camp yearbook. One man told Outside the Lines he was 14 when Mainwaring took him from a night activity (A) to an athletic field (B), where he was molested.
That was true for David Allinson, a track star with Olympic ambitions in 1979. He was 17 and heading into his senior year of high school in New Rochelle, New York, when Mainwaring got him a job as a junior counselor at Greylock. Allinson had been introduced to the coach the previous summer and had trained with him thereafter. Allinson admired the way Mainwaring carried himself and how he tried to be a father figure, something Allinson says he lacked at home.
But Allinson says the relationship took a dramatic turn that summer at Greylock. He remembers it this way: Soon after Allinson arrived in Becket, Mainwaring summoned him to the soccer field to work on a special athletic feat the coach liked to show off. He would leap next to a soccer goal and touch his foot to the crossbar. "If you're going to get to college and be a decathlete or get to the Olympics, you need flexibility, so we need to do this drill tonight," the coach said. Oh, and one more thing, Mainwaring added: Before you come to the field, brush your teeth.
That night, after brushing his teeth, Allinson walked from his cabin to the field. It was pitch-black, surrounded by trees. He was nervous and called out for Mainwaring. "Shhh, keep your voice down," the coach said, waving a flashlight. They walked and talked a bit, did a few exercises. Gradually, Mainwaring led Allinson into the woods.
"How bad do you want the Olympics?" Mainwaring asked.
"More than anything," the boy said.
"What are you willing to do for it, how much mental energy are you prepared to give?"
The coach said the boy needed to give him a hug. He told Allinson to relax: "You need to be able to focus, and you need to learn how to slow your heartbeat down."
He then suggested Allinson think up an erection. "That is the ultimate mental test, because I'm not gay, and you're not gay, and this isn't about sex," Mainwaring said. "This is about showing me you have the mental ability to control your body."
The coach then masturbated the boy to climax.
Afterward, the coach presented another "mental challenge." He wanted the boy to kiss him, and Allinson obliged.
"Good, this has been a big test for you, and I'm happy to say you passed it and you are on your way to the Olympics," Mainwaring said.
Allinson, now a corporate executive living with his wife and children in Northern California, says after that night, "I knew my life had completely changed."
"I didn't know who I was or what I was," he says. "I couldn't even think."
Allinson says the abuse continued and eventually "started happening in the bunks, while the campers were out playing ... maybe a dozen times. I remember getting emotional and saying, 'When is this going to stop?'"
He remembers Mainwaring saying, "It's going to stop when you realize what's necessary in your training, and your training isn't there. If you stop, I won't coach you.'"
Later, as an adult, Allinson says he contemplated suicide. He says he hid the abuse out of shame, fear and confusion -- all of which he blames for a lifelong struggle with alcohol.
In all, seven men told Outside the Lines they were sexually abused by Mainwaring when they were campers or junior counselors at Camp Greylock in the mid-to-late 1970s.
The men who ran the camp when Mainwaring worked there are dead. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach the camp's current owners, Outside the Lines received an email from an attorney who said the latest iteration of the camp has never had any "affiliation whatsoever with Mainwaring." The lawyer did not respond to repeated emails seeking additional comment. Several staff members from that time period and one former camper who is now a staffer told Outside the Lines they couldn't recall anyone matching Mainwaring's description.
A Culture of Secrecy
Robert Bender, who met Mainwaring on his first day at Syracuse, says the coach had a "powerful way of ... pulling you in."
BY 1980, MAINWARING was 28, had landed at Syracuse University in upstate New York and was pursuing a master's degree in counseling and guidance. He worked for the school in student housing.
His latest squad was a mix of students attending the university and younger athletes he had met at local track meets while working as a counselor at a nearby high school. Mainwaring insisted the squad train in secret.
Robert Bender, a lanky freshman, met Mainwaring on his first day at Syracuse. His mom parked outside his dorm and the two were unloading boxes to take up to his room when Mainwaring approached, offering to help.
"Are you an athlete?" he asked.
Before long, Bender was part of Mainwaring's squad, lured more by his presence and attitude than by any of the physical training. The freshman was struck by how Mainwaring would "alternate between being really smiley, laughy and exuberant," then turn on this "dead-on kind of expression [that looked] like he's kind of burrowing in to you psychologically, he's penetrating you psychologically. He had a very powerful way of pulling you in."
The coach pushed his mental training, and he was adamant there should be no girlfriends and no sex. These were things, Mainwaring said, that would dampen Bender's development as an athlete. Eventually, Bender says, the training turned physical, with the coach conducting "physiotherapy" that led to inappropriate touching. Bender says he pulled away after just a few experiences but couldn't bring himself to talk about it at the time, bowed by shame and the force of Mainwaring's message -- secrecy.
"He said I couldn't talk to anyone about it. Nobody," says Bender, now 57. "I think he goes after heterosexual men, having a homosexual act with a heterosexual man, and you feel ashamed about it. You don't want anybody to know, and he relies on that horror that his victim will be equally invested in keeping it a secret as he wants it to be a secret."
Mainwaring, an avid letter writer, emphasized the need for secrecy in correspondence with Vernon Sharples in the early 1980s. "Naturally I expect you to keep my address to yourself [Ed.'s note: Emphasis is in the original.] as I requested in my last letter," he wrote, adding, "I do not wish anyone at all to know this." In another letter to Sharples, he wrote, "I trust that you will not tell anyone where I am or what I am doing, as for the first time I can be away from the newspaper and wagging tongues and people I cannot tolerate."
Sharples says he can't recall why Mainwaring wanted to keep a low profile. Other than a couple of 1976 clippings from the local Leicester newspaper that touted Mainwaring's spot in the Olympics, searches of old papers unearthed nothing unusual. Outside the Lines found no evidence of Mainwaring having trouble with the law in the United Kingdom, though criminal records there are not available to the public.
Bender and six other former Syracuse students say Mainwaring used his veil of secrecy to molest them in the dorms, using virtually identical tactics.
During his time in Syracuse, Mainwaring also kept office hours as a counselor at nearby Nottingham High School, according to two men who say they were minors when he abused them there. School district officials told Outside the Lines they found no records that Mainwaring was ever a staff member or a sanctioned volunteer.
Five other local high school students say they were molested by Mainwaring during the same time period. In total, 14 men told Outside the Lines they were abused by Mainwaring in the Syracuse area.
Among the Nottingham students was Robert Druger, who later attended Syracuse University and ran on the track team. Now an eye surgeon and aikido instructor in Syracuse, Druger, 56, says he visited Mainwaring for "sessions" in dorms where Mainwaring worked. He says the abuse went on for several years. Until recently, Druger says, he compartmentalized the darker parts of the relationship while crediting Mainwaring with helping to improve his life in some ways.
Sitting on the back deck of his home outside Syracuse last fall, Druger says the full gravity of the abuse didn't hit him until the past few years.
"It's like finding out the Wizard of Oz is only this guy behind the curtain, and instead of getting courage, a heart or a brain, you found out he was a child predator and abused you 40 years ago," he says.
A Syracuse University spokesperson told Outside the Lines that Mainwaring completed a master's degree in guidance and counseling and began working toward a doctorate, which he didn't complete. The spokesperson says the school wasn't made aware of any allegations against Mainwaring until this past February, at which point law enforcement authorities were notified and the school began a review of Mainwaring's time on campus.
Mainwaring left Syracuse in the summer of 1985 for Colgate University, about 40 miles down the road in Hamilton, New York, where he worked in the admissions department. Several Syracuse squad members would visit him at Colgate, and new members joined. Among them was Brian, who spoke on the condition Outside the Lines withhold his last name. Brian was 18 when he arrived at Colgate in the fall of 1987, a jazz guitarist and successful high school athlete who had struggled with motivation. He had partied heavily in high school and was in emotional upheaval when he got to college. A sympathetic friend said he just had to meet Conrad Mainwaring.
"He's got different degrees. He's into music. He's into sports. He's totally different," the friend said. "He knows the score, basically."
And so it was that Brian found himself in Mainwaring's office one day, challenged to attain greatness through a mental strength and therapy session. All while being touched inappropriately.
"He was very clever, very diabolically clever because he was couching it as nonsexual," Brian says now.
But within weeks of Brian arriving at Colgate, Mainwaring was leaving for his next job. A school spokesperson confirmed that Mainwaring worked for two years in the admissions department but provided no details about why he left. Mainwaring told Brian he was headed to California for a new job, gave the young man his new number and said he could call collect anytime. In a letter to another squad member during that time, Mainwaring wrote that he was leaving for "California Institute of Technology for my new position as Counseling Psychologist and Professor of Psychology."
That was only partly true.
‘Dragging It Out of Him’
Robert Oliver, who oversaw student housing at Caltech, said in an oral history that Mainwaring was secretive about his counseling sessions with students.
“He was much too secretive about the operations.”
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY is a school for geniuses, a science and engineering powerhouse in Pasadena, just a few miles down the road from the Rose Bowl. The university manages NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and it is perennially viewed as one of the nation's top tech schools -- the MIT of the West.
By the end of September 1987, Mainwaring had, indeed, landed at Caltech. But he was neither a professor nor, formally, a counselor. He was hired as the associate master of student housing, essentially the No. 2 spot in the department that oversees student living at Caltech.
His arrival was covered in the student paper, which described him as "a man whom most students find easy to talk to because of his unassuming demeanor and his smooth English accent." Mainwaring, the article boasted, has "degrees in music, theology, psychology; graduate degrees in education, developmental psychology, and counseling; as well as a diploma in physiotherapy." The article said that Mainwaring's job would make him "available for more one-to-one interactions with the students."
The position came with a house near campus. Squad members visited from the East Coast, and they were impressed by his two-story digs, which had access to a swimming pool. Brian came out from Colgate, and after a workout, Mainwaring gave him a massage and masturbated him, again couched as part of mental training.
Mainwaring began incorporating a new facet into his teachings with Brian: God. By this point, religion had become a central part of the young man's life.
"I looked at him like a Christian disciple because he would intersperse his weird, whacked-out teaching with Bible aphorisms here and there," says Brian, who has a master's degree from Yale Divinity School. "Like cults use the Bible, he used it in a way that he knew had pull with me."
But things soon unraveled for Mainwaring at Caltech. His boss, Robert Oliver, would note that Mainwaring was "very charming, but he didn't volunteer very much information, so I had to get most of what I needed to know by kind of dragging it out of him." Oliver is now dead, but in an audio oral history recorded in 1988, he clearly was describing Mainwaring when he talked about hiring an associate master of student housing who was "doing a dissertation at Syracuse."
On one hand, Oliver said, it was a smart staffing decision to hire Mainwaring, whose name he didn't use on the recording. With a new deputy, there was someone else to handle middle-of-the-night calls to the dorms. But deputizing this person was "a bad thing at the same time, because I wasn't totally aware of all the things that were going on."
"He was much too secretive about the operations," Oliver says. "Indeed, I am told that he asked the people he was counseling not to divulge information about what was going on in their counseling sessions."
One former Caltech student, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, told Outside the Lines that Mainwaring quickly earned a reputation for providing informal couples counseling to students and, inevitably, urging the couples to break up. The former student says that during a session with his then-girlfriend in the spring of 1988, Mainwaring said the couple's relationship was stalled because the man's sex drive wasn't strong enough. Mainwaring said he had a fix, though, and invited the freshman to his house. Upon arrival, the man says, Mainwaring directed him to lie down on the couch. Soon, the coach's lotion-filled hands were under the man's pants and grabbing his penis. The former student says he left immediately. He didn't complain at the time, but Outside the Lines has learned that another student filed a complaint about Mainwaring.
Caltech fired Mainwaring on July 5, 1988, less than a year after he arrived, "following an internal investigation related to a student complaint," a school spokesperson wrote in an email. The spokesperson declined to provide details about the nature of the complaint and added, "The student was not a minor, and did not want to report the alleged incident to law enforcement." Asked if Caltech took any actions to warn other potential employers about Mainwaring, the spokesperson said the school had no further information.
In total, three men told Outside the Lines they were sexually abused by Mainwaring while he was at Caltech. If other students there were molested by him on or near campus, they hadn't sought justice; the Pasadena Police Department said it has no records of any complaints against Mainwaring.
In the spring of 1990, 18 months after he was fired from Caltech, Mainwaring was hired by the University of Southern California to work in its Disability Services and Programs office. He lasted just over a year. Citing employee privacy policies, a spokesperson for USC declined to say whether the school had known about Mainwaring's dismissal from Caltech or comment on why he left.
In the decade after his departure from USC, Mainwaring kept an even lower profile than he had in the past -- back when he was telling Vernon Sharples to keep his whereabouts a secret. He worked a series of random jobs and continued to coach athletes, sometimes in an official capacity. One female athlete said he coached women for a time at Santa Monica College, and a school spokesperson confirmed that Mainwaring was employed part time as a track coach during the spring of 1996.
It is unclear how many new squad members Mainwaring began training in the 1990s. Some old members continued to visit him and stay in contact, but Outside the Lines spoke with only one accuser who says he met the coach during that time.
Power of the Track
Yuri Nosenko (not pictured) met Mainwaring at UCLA in 2001. Mainwaring is shown at a Los Angeles-area track earlier this year.
“There was definitely this sense of … ‘Don’t even interact with women.’”
DRAKE STADIUM'S NINE dark azure lanes make up one of the most recognizable surfaces in track. Some of the fastest humans have run there, from Jackie Joyner-Kersee to Maurice Greene.
The power of the track was not lost on Yuri Nosenko, newly 18 and a freshman when he was training at Drake on a fall afternoon in 2001. He was on his own -- not on the UCLA track team but hoping to get there. Nosenko came from athletic cloth. His dad was once one of the Soviet Union's top 400-meter runners, and his mom was among that country's best women's tennis players.
After Nosenko had finished his workout one day, Conrad Mainwaring walked up and introduced himself as "Coach Av." Mainwaring said he noticed that Nosenko seemed serious about training, and he invited the young man to join his current squad. Some of the members were UCLA students, some were not and some were Olympic-level athletes who had finished college. It was an open invitation. Mainwaring wouldn't charge Nosenko for his services, but there were three requirements.
"First," Mainwaring said, "No drinking or drugs. Second, no messing around with girls. And then third, you've got to come to church with me once."
The first and third didn't seem like huge deals to Nosenko, and he didn't have a girlfriend at that point, so he agreed. Above all else, he just wanted to make the UCLA team.
Initially, Nosenko loved what he found. He enjoyed the training regimen, and Mainwaring was clearly legit: To Nosenko's surprise, the squad's standout member was Felix Sanchez, the Dominican American hurdler and then-Olympic hopeful. Nosenko ultimately would be one of Sanchez's training partners in the lead-up to the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Before long, Mainwaring taught Nosenko about mental strength and began discussing testosterone levels, the purported connection between erections and athletic performance, and the importance of abstaining from masturbation. Again, secrecy was mandatory.
"He had code words for all these things," Nosenko says. "'Coffee' was masturbation, and 'tea' was a wet dream. There was a way to call him to schedule a therapy session. Ring once, hang up. Wait, call again."
Nosenko says he never discussed this part of the training with Sanchez or other members of the squad. Sanchez says he was never touched inappropriately by Mainwaring and wasn't aware of any allegations against his former coach until three years ago. "I have heard a few comments since 2016, [but] to tell the truth, I didn't believe them," he says, adding that he was "fully surprised by the accusations." Outside the Lines spoke with several other men who say they trained with Mainwaring and had only positive experiences.
But Nosenko says that Mainwaring's apartment near UCLA -- the same one he has lived in since 1990, according to public records -- was a regular destination for many of the athletes who trained with Coach Avondale. Sometimes, squad members were at the apartment at the same time.
"There were several times when I watched him give my peers hand jobs," he says. "... He framed it so well as training ... like, this is training, it's not sex."
Outside the Lines spoke with 14 men who trained under Mainwaring at Drake Stadium or in the Los Angeles area from the mid-1990s to 2016 and say they were abused near campus, usually at Mainwaring's apartment.
One man, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, competed for the UCLA track team from 2010 to 2013 and says he was coerced so artfully that a session occurred inside Mainwaring's apartment as the two men watched TV coverage of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
Says the man, who also earned a law degree from UCLA: "It didn't even cross my mind that this was the same thing, that he was doing this for his own pleasure."
Beginning of the End
Tym De Santo's random blog post about a vacation improbably became a hub for Mainwaring's alleged victims.
“Anyone that Googled him, evidently, was getting my blog.”
WHILE MAINWARING WAS busy coaching at the UCLA track, his past was beginning to catch up.
Two thousand miles away, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a man named Tym De Santo was just back from vacation in March 2010. He planned to write about the trip on his blog, where he called himself the Renaissance Guy. De Santo was a niche celebrity. He and his mop of blond hair appeared on the inaugural season of HGTV's "Design Star," where he got his nickname because of his varied talents: designer, singer-songwriter, sculptor, photographer, mountain biker, former professional ski racer.
He wrote on the blog that he and his mother traveled to England, where the De Santo family had lived for a year when Tym was young. "My time in UK was so pleasant and inspiring!" he wrote.
De Santo described a "truly magical evening" visit to Cambridge, where he "sat in front of a long row of colleges, sipping on a cappuccino" under the "deepest indigo blue" sky he had ever seen. He concluded, "Hundreds of years of history, people, stories and events. Thank you Mom and thank you England!"
There wasn't a single mention of Conrad Mainwaring, whom De Santo met when he lived in England. Mainwaring later got him a job as a junior counselor at Camp Greylock in the late 1970s. There, De Santo says, Mainwaring molested him.
But by the time he posted about the England trip -- more than three decades later -- De Santo thought he had buried that past.
The blog item, probably read largely by close friends and family, sat dormant for a year. Then the strangest thing happened: A childhood friend of De Santo's named Glenn Stephens chimed in under the comments section, using an alias.
"Speaking of the UK," Stephens wrote, "I have some Conrad Mainwaring gossip for you!"
De Santo's talk of England, it turns out, had triggered Stephens to remember he had seen Mainwaring several years earlier working with a group of young men at UCLA's Drake Stadium. Stephens had briefly trained with Mainwaring decades earlier after being introduced by De Santo. He says Mainwaring once "tried a bad touch on me" during a post-workout massage, at which point Stephens cut the cord.
At the time that Stephens made his 2011 remark on De Santo's blog, Mainwaring was mostly invisible on the internet, despite having been an Olympian who coached Sanchez to a gold medal in 2004. Anyone who Googled him found little. But Stephens' blog comment would prove to be a beacon for anyone typing in Mainwaring's name. The first to speak up, in 2013, was Brian, the man who says he was molested by Mainwaring when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Colgate.
"I noticed a reference here to Conrad Mainwaring, who also goes by the alias Avondale Mainwaring," Brian wrote. "He has abused many boys and young men, some of whom are my friends. While eternal justice awaits him, justice now, in history, for the victims, would be a good thing ..."
Other comments trickled in over the next few years, until the fall of 2017, when the #MeToo movement was changing the national dialogue on sexual abuse and more people found De Santo's blog and shared their experiences. The details were vague, but they began to lay bare the path of destruction -- from England to Greylock to Syracuse to Colgate to Southern California.
"He got me and my good friend at Camp Greylock in 1977."
"He used his Olympic status to control me."
"I was abused for several years by this despicable predator."
"Grievous and utterly evil."
Some of the longest and most detailed comments came from Vernon Sharples, in the U.K. "I've had a long time to process everything," he wrote. "There is light at the end of the tunnel! We were all used and abused by Conrad. He not only stole our bodies but he stole our minds, too."
The network of men accusing Mainwaring jelled. Many of them had lived in pained silence. Some had spiraled into alcohol, drug or sexual addiction; others had considered suicide. Many had endured pervasive shame.
Now, they had found a support system. The more they connected privately through emails and phone calls, the more they discovered the similarity of their experiences -- and the more emboldened they became to take action.
Andrew Zenoff sought out his reporter friend.
Others considered more direct routes to get at Mainwaring.
A Call to Repent
Michael Waxman, shown near his home in Maine, says he was only 13 when Mainwaring molested him at Camp Greylock.
“Did you then, or do you now, ever think of all the harm you’ve caused?”
BRIAN WAS AT his office in southern Connecticut early one morning in April 2013. It was about 8:30 on the East Coast -- but he had designs on waking up Conrad Mainwaring three time zones to the west, using a number he found online. Here's how he remembers it:
After a few rings, Mainwaring, now 61, picks up.
"Conrad, do you know who this is? ... It's Brian."
"Do you remember me? I'm calling you to see if you repented for molesting young men and boys."
"Yes, I've struggled with this my whole life," Mainwaring says. "I've been in therapy since 2002."
"Have you stopped?"
"I stopped in 2002."
Brian knows this isn't true because of what he's learned through the network. He details the impact Mainwaring has had on his life.
"I ask you to forgive me," Mainwaring says.
"For what? What did you do?" Brian wants clarity.
"For ruining your life."
The call lasts about 15 minutes. Mainwaring stumbles through, at once self-critical -- "There is total hypocrisy in my life because I'm still teaching young people." -- and at other times seething over the memory of a woman who supposedly betrayed him.
"You are a false teacher," Brian says. "You're deluded. You weren't following Christ."
He tells Mainwaring that if he is to truly repent, he needs to make a "wholesale confession" to all the men he wronged. Brian has a suggestion for whom to call first, and he offers a phone number.
A few days later, a man who asked to be referred to as Max is about to take a walk when his phone rings. Max says Mainwaring molested him starting when he was in high school in Syracuse in the early 1980s. He and Brian had connected through the survivor network and spent hours sharing their stories and feelings.
"This is Conrad," Mainwaring begins. "I'm calling to ask for your forgiveness."
Max asks whether the sexual part of the "training" served any legitimate purpose.
"There was no logic to any of it. It was stupid, it was wrong," Mainwaring tells Max. He says his actions were "Hitler-like. Everything I was doing was about control."
As they go back and forth, Max lays out the devastation he suffered, including thoughts of killing himself.
"There has been darkness that has been part of my life," Max says. "I went to prostitutes and massage parlors and reenacted my experience with you."
Mainwaring says that he has been in therapy for years, that he left education, that he wasn't sexually abusive anymore. He says he and a counselor he's been seeing "are pretty sure I experienced an event while I was young. That something happened with my cousins. I have flashes of it." He says his parents left him alone in Antigua until he was 9 and that "some sort of molestation took place."
"That must be painful. I'm sorry for what was perpetrated on you," Max says. "I'm more sorry that you turned around and perpetrated it on others."
"Can you forgive me?"
"I don't know how to answer that question. I don't know what to do about that."
"I understand. I hope you know that I'm genuinely sorry. Good luck."
"Good luck to you," Max answers, without thinking.
The call lasts 44 minutes, and Max immediately records everything he can remember in his journal, which he provided to Outside the Lines. Max writes that he felt pity for Mainwaring because he was "infected with a sickness and then infected others." Then Max feels angry and worried that he failed to convey "how much sorrow, shame and demoralization I felt over 30 years." And by finishing the call by saying, "Good luck." What was that?
Max writes down what he wished he had said: "Good luck as you proceed down a path for good rather than one of destruction. Good luck processing and understanding how much you've hurt young men."
In an effort both to learn about Mainwaring's family history and to address his claims of abuse as a boy in Antigua, Outside the Lines reached out to his brother in England and sister in New Zealand. Neither replied. But at least two things Mainwaring told Max were lies. First, Mainwaring hadn't voluntarily left education -- at least not at Caltech -- as he had suggested. Most notably, he allegedly hadn't stopped abusing young athletes.
Nor, apparently, would he stop.
‘Something Weird Just Happened’
David O'Boyle describes his feelings as he prepared to confront Mainwaring in 2016.
IT'S EARLY EVENING, June 27, 2016, and Mainwaring is giving Benjamin a ride to his student apartment after a workout at Drake Stadium.
"I'll find parking," Mainwaring tells Benjamin. "Then I'll come up and give you the full treatment."
Over the past several months of training with Mainwaring, Benjamin has become a believer. His efforts to walk on to the UCLA track team haven't worked out, but under Mainwaring, his running times have improved, buoying his goal of making his country's national team. Sure, the talks about life and theories on training, the comments about testosterone and the connection between erections and athletic performance are weird, but they seem to fit into some grander plan.
Inside the apartment, Mainwaring has Benjamin lie on his back. Soon, he begins to work the groin area and tells Benjamin to conjure an erection. Ability to do so is an indication of high testosterone, Mainwaring says.
"The goal is to get from zero to 100," he says.
Benjamin feels uneasy, but he is oddly pleased when Mainwaring says, "Good, good, you're getting percentage quite quickly."
"The Eastern European athletes and coaches do this all the time," Mainwaring tells him. "And the Greeks used to do this."
Mainwaring works his hands under Benjamin's underwear: "To get the deep muscles, I need direct contact with the skin."
Eventually, Mainwaring masturbates Benjamin to completion. Benjamin lies there stunned, but almost hypnotized. He keeps thinking about the goal: higher testosterone levels, better performance.
After Mainwaring leaves, Benjamin replays the session over and over. He goes to his computer and searches for any information on performance and masturbation and testosterone levels. He comes up empty and texts a friend: "Something weird just happened. I need to talk with you tomorrow."
Finally, Benjamin goes to bed. He has an early workout the next day at Drake. With Mainwaring.
Around the same time, about 30 miles away, in the L.A. suburb of Agoura Hills, 31-year-old UCLA alum David O'Boyle is steeling himself for the next morning. He is planning to confront Mainwaring for abusing him 11 years ago. He had kept the pain mostly to himself all these years, but then he found De Santo's blog and learned that one man who accused Mainwaring of abuse might have been just 12 years old at the time.
O'Boyle can't stay quiet any longer. He has to do something.
‘It’s Over For You’
David O'Boyle says he confronted Mainwaring partly to warn other athletes who were still training with the coach.
EARLY THE NEXT morning, June 28, 2016, Mainwaring picks up Benjamin outside his apartment en route to Drake, as if nothing unusual happened the night before. And O'Boyle makes the 45-minute drive to UCLA.
As O'Boyle parks and walks toward the track, he hasn't decided whether he'll record the confrontation. Marching across the infield, he can see young men stretching, and he spots Mainwaring. Adrenaline floods his brain. He decides to warn the athletes before doing anything else; he wants to do for them what nobody did for him, so he approaches the group. Benjamin looks up, bewildered.
"Do you train with this man?" O'Boyle asks.
Benjamin feels paralyzed as O'Boyle turns to Mainwaring and stays on him, relentlessly, for 12 minutes, video rolling.
How are you getting away with it, you m-----f-----?
How do you do it? How do you get these boys to believe in you so much? How do you get them to trust you?
You're a total master manipulator.
You're not doing this anymore. It's over for you.
Mainwaring, in a purple shirt under a black jacket, avoids eye contact. He fumbles with a stopwatch. He takes out a note pad and starts writing. He points off camera toward what appear to be some of his squad members and suggests he is going to time them.
Look in that camera. I want a good picture to show the cops.
How many boys have you molested in your life? I know at least 5, maybe 6.
Mainwaring tries to walk away a couple of times, with the aid of a walker he has used since having hip surgery the year before. He is carrying a large umbrella, which he uses to take occasional swipes at O'Boyle, connecting at least once.
Hittin' me with an umbrella! What are you, 7 years old? Is that when it happened to you?
You're not doing this anymore. It's over for you. There's not gonna be any more boys. There's not gonna be any more molesting.
Eventually, O'Boyle is done. He goes directly to UCLA police, where he tells an officer everything, from the alleged abuse a decade ago to the confrontation that day and Mainwaring hitting him with the umbrella. He just wants something -- anything -- done. He writes a letter to UCLA's athletic department, demanding an investigation and insisting Mainwaring be banned from the track. Several others write letters of support.
Benjamin, in a state of fatigue and despair, goes back to his apartment. Mainwaring calls him later that day, he says, and insists O'Boyle is a disgruntled former athlete. Benjamin doesn't know what to believe, but he writes a detailed account of what happened in his apartment.
About two weeks later, Benjamin works up the nerve to tell his parents, who encourage him to file a report with authorities. So, UCLA police hear another account about Mainwaring. But according to Benjamin, officers suggest they can't bring charges because he is an adult. Any sexual contact, they say, would be seen as consensual. This contradicts California law, which states, in part, that if "the perpetrator fraudulently represented that the touching served a professional purpose, [he] is guilty of sexual battery," regardless of the age of the victim.
UCLA police took this report from Benjamin about two weeks after the runner witnessed David O'Boyle's confrontation with Mainwaring.
In a letter dated Aug. 15, 2016, UCLA notifies Mainwaring he has been banned from campus and from working with UCLA athletes. If he doesn't comply, the letter says, he'll be subject to arrest. It reads, in part: "We recently received several complaints that you utilized as an alleged training strategy inappropriate massaging of the genital region of male athletes," which complainants consider "an assault." The letter also notes that UCLA police spoke with Mainwaring and that he "acknowledged the nature of this physical contact on more than one occasion" but "indicated it may have been inadvertent." Outside the Lines was unable to review the investigative files, which are protected under state law.
O'Boyle later said UCLA police informed him that the umbrella strikes didn't merit criminal charges and that the statute of limitations had expired on his claims of sexual abuse. The department declined comment to Outside the Lines, citing confidentiality.
Although O'Boyle's confrontation led to a small victory for those who have accused Mainwaring, none of them believed he would give up coaching. As one said, "He was like a virus, a contagion."
But they weren't through fighting him.
Detectives Catch a Break
LAPD Detective Sharlene Johnson says it was difficult to find any cases against Mainwaring that fell within the statute of limitations until Benjamin stepped forward.
ROBERT DRUGER, THE Syracuse eye surgeon recruited to Mainwaring's squad while in high school, was at a bar mitzvah in late 2018 when he met a federal prosecutor who had handled sexual abuse cases.
Druger had buried his abuse for decades; he hadn't told anyone about it -- not even his family -- until he found De Santo's blog, linked up with others who have accused Mainwaring and contacted Outside the Lines to give his account. But once Druger opened up, there was no stopping him. His bar mitzvah conversation led to a call with a federal agent in New York, which led to a call with the FBI in Los Angeles. Druger wanted Mainwaring brought to justice, but it wasn't looking good.
New York's criminal statute of limitations on Druger's allegations was long expired, and there was no evidence that Mainwaring committed a federal crime, so the FBI forwarded the case to the Los Angeles Police Department. If Mainwaring was still involved with boys or young men, it would be a matter for the LAPD.
Druger spoke to LAPD Detective Danetta Menifee, relaying his experience and putting her and her partner, Detective Sharlene Johnson, in touch with others who said Mainwaring abused them. Still, there wasn't much the detectives could do. All of the cases were too old.
"It was a little disheartening, listening to the victims, how they were affected back then, how they're still affected, and knowing that [we] couldn't do anything," Johnson told Outside the Lines.
But then the detectives caught a break. In December, a former training partner of Benjamin's had encouraged him to reach out to Outside the Lines. After talking with reporters, Benjamin learned about the LAPD investigation and contacted officers, sharing his own experience.
The report arrived just six months before expiration of California's three-year statute of limitations on sexual battery by fraud -- touching the genitals under false pretenses. With Benjamin, the detectives had a shot at bringing a case to the district attorney. It wouldn't be easy. Because the allegation did not include a claim of penetration, the sexual battery was what is referred to as a "wobbler," meaning it might not be charged by prosecutors as a felony.
In an effort to increase their chances of getting a felony filed, the detectives sought to show prosecutors that the alleged offense was part of a pattern -- in this case dating back to the 1970s. So Johnson and Menifee continued chasing down men whose accounts bolstered their case.
"A lot of these men didn't even know they were victims of crimes until more recent things started coming out in the news about women, the #MeToo movement and what was happening to them," Johnson says. "... I think a lot of that has to do with ... society being more open to what is and is not a crime when it comes to all spectrums of sexual assault."
While the LAPD was building its case against Mainwaring, Outside the Lines spotted him at a local track meet and learned he was still coaching young athletes at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, a public facility in South Los Angeles.
Early on the morning of March 21 of this year, reporters found Mainwaring sitting at the track alone, waiting for his athletes to show up. It was overcast, and the rush of Exposition Boulevard traffic was audible from a hundred yards off. A reporter approached, with a TV crew in tow.
Mainwaring sprang up, grabbed his walker and bolted, moving surprisingly fast for a 67-year-old man with hip problems. With cameras rolling and the reporter asking about the many men who accused him of sexual abuse, Mainwaring beelined across the parking lot. He refused comment, other than to accuse the reporter of harassment. Later, Outside the Lines attempted to contact Mainwaring by email, phone and a letter left at his apartment. He never replied.
Early on June 19, Los Angeles police arrested Mainwaring on one felony count of sexual battery by fraud, punishable by up to four years in prison. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail a few days later.
It is unclear who bailed him out.
Outside the Lines broke the story of the arrest -- prompting several additional men to contact reporters and describe how Mainwaring had sexually abused them.
Living With the Legacy
Michael Waxman, Robert Bender and Vernon Sharples describe the lasting damage they say they suffered because of Mainwaring.
DECADES AFTER HER eldest son confided that he had been molested by Conrad Mainwaring and then died a few days later in a hiking accident, 78-year-old Nisha Zenoff sits on a couch in her Northern California home.
Her condo overlooks Richardson Bay in affluent Tiburon. It's tranquil and picturesque -- a stark contrast to the dark hole in her life all these years later.
Nisha is a psychotherapist, with a specialty in grief and marriage counseling. She wrote a 2017 book titled, "The Unspeakable Loss: How do you live after a child dies?" Today, she is showing a reporter some old photos of Victor.
"Oh, this is a good one. ... I think that one was in Mexico. ..."
She sifts through the shots and smiles. "Everybody loved Victor. ... We would always say Victor had a certain sense of loving and being kind to people. ... He smiled a lot. He was happy. He had that dimple. He was easygoing."
But then: "That summer camp experience with Conrad absolutely changed him."
After Victor died, Nisha says, she vowed to her then-husband and others that she would go after "this son of a bitch, wherever he is."
But as Nisha's anger became consumed by grief, she says, her sense of urgency for justice was pushed to the background.
"I think our hearts were so broken that the most we could do was grieve his death," she says. "But for me, it was always an unfinished piece of business. Always."
Finally, she is beginning to get some answers. Her son Andrew had helped set the wheels in motion by speaking with his reporter friend, and now Nisha was hearing about what Outside the Lines had unearthed about Conrad Mainwaring:
There are at least 41 men who have accused Mainwaring of abusing them. Victor was the youngest, just 12. The men now range in age from 22 to 59. According to their accounts -- 15 on the record -- Mainwaring carried out his abuse across two continents and four states, often while employed at prestigious institutions. A handful of the men say they tried to bring Mainwaring to justice in England and the United States, only to be met with shrugs or hindered by statutes of limitations.
The men told virtually identical stories -- of being charmed, groomed, coached and sexually molested by Mainwaring for weeks, months or years under the auspices of sports training, mental training, spiritual guidance or some combination of the three. They say their coach used his Olympic credentials, coaching achievements, relationships with accomplished athletes and expertise in psychology and physiology to persuade them to train with him, often at no charge. Many said they had little or no previous sexual experience when they met him.
Collectively, they rendered a detailed and consistent picture of a con man so skilled that he often conducted the abuse without his victims even realizing they were used as tools of his perversion.
Many described a Faustian bargain driven by their desire for athletic success, combined with a sense that Mainwaring was truly their friend, their mentor, their guide on a journey toward a better life. In fact, to this day, some of the men report feeling wildly conflicted -- angry and tortured by the abuse yet convinced that some of their achievements would not have been possible without him. One man still credits Mainwaring for his becoming a doctor. Another gave Mainwaring tens of thousands of dollars over the years; that man recently found himself crying alone in his car in the wake of the coach's arrest. Many invited Mainwaring into their homes to meet their parents, who were equally enamored of him. In recent years, several men banded together to raise $13,000 to help pay for Mainwaring's hip replacement.
As Nisha absorbs the breadth of the accusations and Mainwaring's lasting impact, she distills his influence to a "manipulation of the brain."
"It was a rape of the brain in that sense because it wasn't just an abuse of the body," she says. "It's abuse of the brain and the heart and the soul."
For that moment, Nisha's analysis sounds detached, more professional than parental. But then, quickly, she is inside Victor's head and overwhelmed. She's fighting back tears.
"The pain of thinking what he must have gone through internally, holding a secret like that," she says. "I really think of [Mainwaring] as a killer. I mean, that's pretty strong because I don't think he's killed anybody. But somehow, I feel like he killed Victor's spirit."
Producer Greg Amante, associate producer Tonya Malinowski and researcher John Mastroberardino of ESPN's investigative unit contributed to this report. Additional research by Adrian Gatton in London.
Additional timeline photos provided by Vernon Sharples, Robert Bender, Getty Images, Rachel Bujalski, Susannah Ireland, LAPD
If you are the victim of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or go to https://www.rainn.org, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.