Timothy Joyce

Coverage of the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal and other investigations

USA SWIMMING SCANDAL – The First Article

Here is the first article I wrote on the scandal, published back in July. It serves as an extended overview of the decades-long history of abuse within the sport. 

 

**USA SWIMMING SCANDAL – WORSE THEN PENN STATE?**

This article is the result of an exhaustive, seven months-long investigation into USA Swimming. It is a small part of an expansive and complicated story. The goal of this extended column is to inform the readers of important elements of a grossly underreported story. All information contained herein is the result of first-hand interviews and information obtained from reliable and knowledgeable sources. All consideration was made to let USA Swimming answer the more serious charges made against the organization, but on nearly every occasion it declined to respond.

 

When I contacted Irish journalist Justine McCarthy – she broke the massive story of years of abuse by her nation’s swim coaches – about her feelings on staying professionally detached from this sordid saga, she wrote me: “Maintaining professional detachment was never possible nor did I think it necessary.  These survivors have never been fairly represented and that lost voice needs to be compensated for.  Besides, this is a totally human story so it cannot be told with clinical detachment – at least, that’s my view.”

I agree. It’s about time that journalists – who cover sports or otherwise – shed their mythical cloak of detachment, their endless false equivalencies when there are the supposed “two sides a story”, and use their words to help foster change. It diminishes the power of the press for journalists to be so accepting of institutional explanations – be it with United States Swimming, the Penn State tragedy or the Wall Street mess. It’s a lesson that needs to be constantly relearned if journalism is to avoid dysfunction.

The following story is, at best, a saga of institutional failure and moral bankruptcy and, at worst, a covering-up of abuse that may lead to criminal investigations of USA Swimming officials. 

By Tim Joyce

WBAL Exclusive

Sarah Burt is dead.  

An outstanding student and competitive swimmer who became a lifeguard and loved teaching children to swim, her private anguish became too much to bear. So after finally telling her parents of the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her United States Swimming coach, she made a decision. On June 29, 2010 Burt drove her car to a busy intersection in rural Illinois, 20 minutes from Peoria. She parked, got out, and ended her years of torment when she walked into traffic and was hit by a semi-truck. She was 16 years old.  

Her story has remained a tragic, and largely unknown, footnote to a decades-long history of abuse by USA Swimming coaches. 

USA Swimming, a non-governing body (NGB) of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has been conducting an internal investigation of the matter for over a year and a half with no result thus far. The Burt family, after repeatedly being told that they’d be updated on the status of USA Swimming’s inquiry has heard nothing, only adding to the emotional hell and heartbreak they’ve endured for more than two years.  

The same year of Burt’s death, Andy King, a San Jose swimming coach, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after authorities uncovered a pattern of sexual abuse that lasted three decades and involved more than a dozen young on the West Coast.  

USA Swimming in 2008 had proudly accepted King into its ranks, stating in an acceptance letter, “Congratulations. Your background screening has been thoroughly reviewed and meets the qualification standards set by USA Swimming.” According to USA Swimming, the organization at the time checked only for criminal convictions and didn’t include background interviews or investigations with local police. 

California attorney Robert Allard, who is leading the prosecution and settling of cases against USA Swimming puts the blame squarely on USA Swimming’s leadership – a leadership that is still entirely in place today.  

“To understand how this culture can flourish”, Allard said, “one need only look at the individuals in charge of USA Swimming. (USA Swimming President) Chuck Wielgus effectively thwarted any investigation of King by ordering that a swimmer’s complaint of sex abuse be kept ‘confidential’ in 2002. Wielgus then attempted to deceive the American public on ESPN by stating that King was not even on USA Swimming’s ‘radar’ until he was arrested in 2010 for child molestation. Wielgus repeated this under penalty of perjury in legal documents.”  

It appears that the leadership of USA Swimming has too often placed a premium on preserving the reputation – of both the organization and its coaches – rather than protect the healthy and safety of its athletes, at any cost.  

Does this sound familiar?  

Like Penn State, the leaders at USA Swimming were aware of problems with coaches but opted to suppress what they knew rather than cleanse from within. But while football is the national sporting religion and Joe Paterno was one of its saints, swimming is barely on the sporting radar except during Olympic summers, as we’re in now. 

So in that sense, the Penn State tragedy was an “easy story” for reporters, with a built-in narrative and one clearly defined evildoer with a cast of complicit characters in the wings.  

The USA Swimming story is actually far more comprehensive and layered, which renders it a far more challenging topic to follow.  

Simply put, the national media got downright lazy in failing to follow-up on the USA Swimming situation after the story of rampant sexual abuse by USA Swim coaches broke in 2010, after ABC News 20/20 and others broadcast an extensive discussion of the case.  

And nothing has changed at USA Swimming. No one took the blame, accountability utterly – and shamefully – absent. Consider that the major players who were in charge at USA Swimming when the sex abuse scandals broke in 2010 – long-time Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, head of Club Development Pat Hogan and others – are still wielding the greatest influence in the organization.  

“We chose to move on and not dwell on the past,” Jamie Olsen, USA Swimming marketing director, told me when I asked her why the organization has taken no action.  

In September 2011, “Jane Doe,” a King victim in San Jose settled her case against USA Swimming. The terms are confidential. Currently there are three pending cases against USA Swimming – Jancy Thompson v. USA Swimming in San Jose, Calif.; and Taflinger v. USA Swimming and Weiss v. USA Swimming, both in Indiana.  

There will likely be more lawsuits in the days to come. Just last week the Washington Post published a story about the Washington, DC-area swim coaching legend Richard Curl and his sexual contact with a former swimmer, just 13 years old at the time.  

And there are continue to be new cases of sexual abuse by swim coaches around the country, as evidenced by coaches charged with such crimes in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Orange County, California, and Malvern, Pennsylvania.  

Stories about sexual abuse in the swim community date back decades. In fact, it’s been something of a global plague, with the United States being the latest country forced to confront sex scandals in swimming.  

Sexual abuse scandals destroyed the Irish national swim program in 1998 after revelations that George Gibney and other coaches had abused underage swimmers. Gibney was charged on 27 counts of molesting both boys and girls, but while he contested the charges against him on grounds the statute of limitations had expired, he fled to the United States where, incredibly, he wasn’t put on any “do not coach” list. Numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have been submitted to look into how Gibney was able to come to the United States. But as of this writing, the FOIA queries have all been rejected.  

The Irish situation became so extreme that Frank McCann, who had been the Irish swim team manager at the time the scandal was breaking, was convicted of murdering his wife and child in order to prevent them from discovering he had fathered a child by an underage swimmer.  

According to multiple sources, among the damning facts regarding USA Swimming include making deals with coaches who have abused minors in order to keep the issue quiet; the influential leader of the coach’s association, John Leonard, stalling attempts by the organization to tighten sexual abuse policies; and USA Swimming creating its own insurance company (United States Sports Insurance Company) that did not include sexual molestation as part of its coverage until the USOC pressured it to on May 3, 1999.  

Among the coaches accused of inappropriate sexual behavior is Aaron Bartleson, a former USA Swimming coach who worked with the West Coast Aquatics Swim Club in California. He resigned from that club in 2005 after a co-worker accused him of sexual misconduct. At the time, Bartleson didn’t suffer any repercussions and was allowed to resign quietly.  

Bartleson eventually moved to Colorado where he was hired as a coach at Mitchell High School. In 2008, Bartleson applied for membership in a USA Swimming-associated club. After a private investigator reported Bartleson’s past to USA Swimming, it decided not to allow Bartleson to coach. In 2009, Wielgus under advisement from law firm HRO (now Bryan Cave, LLC), entered into a confidential agreement with Bartleson forbidding him to coach at a USA Swimming club.  

It was not the first time Wielgus brokered a deal to save face. Former USA Swimming National Team Director Everett Uchiyama was accused of sexual misconduct in January 2006 but he, too, was allowed to resign without explanation. Further, Hogan, the managing director of club management for USA Swimming, was likely aware of the deal and the misconduct, but gave Uchiyama a positive reference when he applied for a job at a Colorado Springs country club. And Uchiyama’s wife Helen worked for Hogan at the time.  

When the Penn State story first broke, many made the analogy between the university and the Catholic church for the way it concealed the sinister doings within its hallowed walls.  In reality, the USA Swimming abuse scandals are more similar to the Catholic church, as the scope and breadth of the swimming scandal far exceeds that of Penn State.  

There are some good guys to this story, those within USA Swimming who have fought back, whistleblowers who wanted – and still want – to restore respectability to swimming. Mike Saltzstein, a former USA Swimming vice president, publicly pleaded with the organization by writing a white paper about its sexual abuse policies. He asserts that USA Swimming retaliated against him by removing him from the USA Swimming Officials List because of his insistence that the organization face the issue of abuse. In 2010, after being vindicated in arbitration, he was reinstated, though he is not  present in London be on the list for this summer’s games.  

“When [USA] Swimming executives, after publication of my White Paper, finally responded it was in the form of direct threats, retaliation, and actions to ensure no one else had the temerity to come forward.”  

Saltzstein said the abuse goes beyond the professional arena. Since speaking out, he says his household trash has been taken from the curb to be investigated and his friends have been “badgered” by investigators.  

Denial about sexual abuse is rampant in the swimming community, particularly at the coaching level. John Leonard, longtime leader of the American Swim Coaches Association, has protested having to deal with the issue, even going so far as to oppose laws curtailing “deck changing” (where swimmers change out of their suits/clothes with hardly any protective screen). Said Leonard, “banning deck changing will not protect a single child from sexual abuse.”   

Additionally, Leonard went so far as to tell a reporter from Aquatics International magazine that, sexual abuse is a “societal issue” and that “portraying it as a USA-Swimming sex scandal was totally unfair, incorrect and irresponsible.”  

When I asked Leonard if he ever opposed improving safeguards against abuse, he replied, “I have always been in full support of all efforts to improve child protection in our sport. I also would like to make sure that all USA Swimming members are protected, including doing all we can to prevent unproven accusations from negatively affecting a coach’s career.”  

At least Leonard responded to some hard questions. That’s more than can be said for  Wielgus or his legal team at Bryan Cave. Or even USOC Executive Director Scott Blackmun. The USOC is a powerful group that can, if they choose, wield tremendous influence over their National Governing Bodies; it was the USOC’s actions in 1999 that forced USSIC to have sexual molestation covered in its insurance policies. When I queried Blackmun about the scandal in general or Bryan Cave’s influence on USA Swimming specifically, I received no reply.  

And that didn’t surprise me. After all, Blackmun was a former law partner of Richard Young at HRO (now Bryan Cave).  And Young has negotiated contracts for Wielgus and also oversaw the hushing up of coach abuse and other investigations for USA Swimming. And the three of them all live in close proximity in Colorado Springs.  

USA Swimming is a manifestly incestuous and secretive organization where big money is at stake and tremendous perks can be enjoyed by those at the top; be it Wielgus’s nearly $800,000 per year salary or the first-class travel accommodations and level of Olympic access afforded those at USA Swimming.  

And it’s likely only going to get worse for USA Swimming. As further lawsuits are put forward, the Watergate-like shroud that protects the organization will gradually disintegrate. And, according to sources, possible criminal investigations are not out of the questions.  

Says Allard, “Mr. Wielgus has been asked under penalty of perjury for all known information about three coaches who have engaged in sexually deviant behavior involving USA Swimming member swimmers, including sexual molestation.  On each occasion, Mr. Wielgus denied possessing such knowledge.   Based upon the information that we have gathered, Chuck Wielgus and/or USA Swimming had extensive knowledge on each of these matters.  In two of them, Mr. Wielgus was intimately involved and in fact provided direction as to how the matters were to be internally handled. Without knowing the elements of a crime of perjury in the appropriate jurisdiction, I cannot say definitively if a criminal act has been committed.  Based upon how I understand the crime in accordance with an ordinary lay person’s understanding, it certainly appears to me that Mr. Wielgus has perjured himself on multiple occasions.”  

LOST LUGGAGE IN MONTREAL REVEALS USA SWIMMING’S DESIRE TO STIFLE ANY NEGATIVE PUBLICITY  

In November of 2011 Jeff Renwick received a bizarre email from a person he had never  met. In the message, a woman inquired as to whether Renwick was missing a briefcase because her husband’s got mistakenly exchanged with another passenger’s at the

Montreal airport. As he was reading the email, Renwick obviously wondered why she would think it was his. The answer came with the next sentence.  

The woman wrote that, after she opened the briefcase, in an attempt to figure out the rightful owner, she came across only one piece of possible identifying information; an email from Chuck Wielgus, the president of USA Swimming (USS) sent to Renwick and cc’d to Sue Woessner, another official at USS.  

Renwick thought this highly strange but quickly deducted who the briefcase might belong to – a lawyer from Colorado Springs, Richard Young, outside counsel for USA Swimming. Sure enough, Young was the owner of the briefcase and the exchange of luggage was made without a hitch.  

But why was there an email sent to Renwick in the lawyer’s possession? After all, it had been seven months since Renwick had any email contact with USA Swimming. Seven months since he last communicated with an organization that he feels had treated his family with disrespect, scorn and flat-out intimidation, in a blatant violation of their own code of conduct standards. Renwick had been outspoken in his complaints about the lewd nature of social networking pages of a coach who worked at the club where Renwick’s children swam. As a result of Renwick’s persistence, he was told he was no longer welcome at the swim club.  

Young replied via email that there had been a simple mix-up in luggage and that he had Renwick’s email because it had been the topic of Internet postings and he wanted to discuss it with the USA Swimming Board. But why not contact Renwick himself? If the matter was closed, why would it rise to the level of such importance? Was it all in the name attempting yet again to stifle any negative publicity?   

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USA Swimming Scandal – Profile of Abuse in Alaska

Eveyln Mulwray: What were you doing there? 
Jake Gittes: Working for the District Attorney. 
Evelyn Mulwray: Doing what? 
Jake Gittes: As little as possible. 
Evelyn Mulwray: The District Attorney gives his men advice like that? 
Jake Gittes: They do in Chinatown.

A scene from Roman Polanski’s Chinatown 

ANOTHER CASE RAISES THE QUESTION – WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR USA SWIMMING TO FULLY INVESTIGATE AN ALLEGATION OF ABUSE?

It appears that nowhere in this country, no matter how remote, is immune from the tactics of delay and obfuscation from USA Swimming when the nonprofit organization conducts its infamously dubious investigations.   

The locations this time – Montana, Idaho and Alaska. 

Piecing together a lengthy and complex sequence of events related to an accusation of sexual abuse in Montana, by a coach who also taught swimmers in Alaska and Idaho, it is evident that USA Swimming failed in its duty to follow their own protocol when investigating a serious accusation. Furthermore, and perhaps more damning, from the example I outline below, it is evident that USA Swimming did not pursue this case with any particular zeal until a woman who alerted them of such abuse informed them that she had been reading up on WBAL’s coverage of the sex abuse scandal. 

Sadly, and tragically, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, USA Swimming’s M.O. is to act only when a story threatens to become public knowledge. We’ve seen this time and again, most recently with the Richard Curl investigation.  

Here is a condensed timeline of the latest case to be examined for this continuing series of articles on USA Swimming:  

· In May, 2009 a woman (who wishes to remain anonymous) contacts USA Swimming, to warn the organization about reckless behavior from a coach and his inappropriate contact with young swimmers and improper – if legal – involvement with parents and board members. This coach had already been fired from the woman’s swim team for unrelated reasons. Additionally, the woman had actually made a verbal complaint months prior to May, 2009 with no response from USA Swimming.

· On November 10th, 2011, Ms. Connie Kanen sent Susan Woessner an email informing her about a 15 year-old swimmer who was allegedly molested by a swim coach in Montana. The coach was Ms. Kanen’s ex-husband (the molestation occurred before Ms. Kanen was married) and the same man who the woman in 2009 had complained about. Kanen attached an online conversation she had with the victim. In her email to Woessner, Ms. Kanen also stated that, “I have a 12-year history with this man and truly believe he should not work with children. In fact, I currently have a domestic violence restraining order against him which restricts him from having any physical visitation with his own three year-old child.”

· On November 28th, 2011, Kanen sent Paulette Brundage, USA Swimming’s investigator (the same one who investigated the death of Sarah Burt and all the other cases I’ve referenced in this series of columns) a package of evidence, detailing behavior by her ex-husband. Additionally, Brundage was informed in writing about the young girl who Kanen believes to have been molested by her ex-husband.

· Also on November 28th, 2011, the woman who first filed the 2009 complaint then followed up the status of the investigation. Woessner tells her that, “… the ***** investigation is our priority investigation and is ongoing at this time. Please understand that it is our intent to do a thorough investigation and that this can take time, particularly during the holiday season.”

· On January 7th, 2012, Kanen sent Woessner and Brundage the detailed account, written by the minor, chronicling the molestation the girl suffered through from the coach. Kanen maintains that the girl sent this document days earlier but Kanen wanted to also send it on to ensure it would arrive at USA Swimming headquarters.

· On April 17, 2012 after Kanen inquired again as to the status of the investigation, Susan replied that, “Connie, I hope you are well. I wanted to let you know that we have completed the investigation in the **** complaint and we are currently reviewing it for next steps. When we have a decision to that end, I will be able to provide another update.” In a couple of additional emails over the next four months, Woessner reaffirms that the investigation is closed and that the investigation is in its next steps, etc.

· On August 16th, 2012, after Kanen had sent her an article on the Penn State situation and it’s possible links with the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal, Woessner emails Kanen and says that, “…the investigation has closed and we are in the process of reviewing it for next steps. This part has taken longer in part due to the fact that I have been out of the office for much of the summer. I will update you as to next steps when we move in that direction.”

· On September 20, 2012, in a phone call, Kanen informs Woessner that her ex-husband was indeed a USA Swim coach at the time of the molestation as he was coaching a USA Swimming team in Alaska. In fact he’s been a coach from 1999-2011. At this point Kanen also tells Woessner that she is increasingly alarmed by the articles she is reading on WBAL detailing the sex abuse scandal at USA Swimming. Woessner claims that, until this conversation, she couldn’t act because the alleged victim didn’t swim in a USA Swimming league and she wasn’t aware that the coach was affiliated with USA Swimming until this time. Woessner informs Kanen that since **** was indeed a USA Swimming coach at the time of the alleged molestation, that this “changes everything” and USA Swimming will move ahead quickly with the case.

· On Tuesday, September 25th, 2012, Kanen calls the police department to see if USA Swimming had filed a report. The police tell Kanen that yes, USA Swimming had just filed a report last week.

· Finally, on Wednesday, September 26, 2012, the swimmer who was alleged molested is informed by Kanen that the police may contact her. But, as of the writing of this article, USA Swimming – Woessner or anyone else – has not contacted the swimmer to confirm that she was being coached by someone affiliated with USA Swimming. 

The following are conclusions that can be drawn from these events: 

Fact – it took USA Swimming nearly a year to file a police report relating to the possible molestation of a teenage girl by a coach. 

Fact – it took nearly a year for USA Swimming to realize that the accused coach was a USA Swimming-affiliated coach, even though USA Swimming was given a serious complaint about the molestation of a teenage girl, a complaint that the girl had in writing. And the reason they gave for not knowing he was a USA Swimming coach was because the girl swam in a non-USA Swimming league. How hard could it have been to check the national database? And wouldn’t such a horrible accusation trigger some sort of urgency in Colorado Springs? This is, after all, more than a year after the 20/20 interview with Executive Director Chuck Wielgus exposed USA Swimming to accusations of ignoring abuse complaints for decades.  

Fact – Susan Woessner and USA Swimming had declared the case closed until Kanen went to them again and stated she had been reading the latest articles on the sex abuse scandal involving USA Swimming. After relaying this info, USA Swimming took a more active approach.  

When I asked the woman who first filed the complaint against this coach she referred me to a passage she wrote to Woessner in an email earlier this week. It reads, “I believe that somehow, somewhere, and at some point, the truth will become national news just like it was in the Penn State case – USA Swimming is corrupt, dishonest, and a breeding ground for sexual predators. You are no different than these coaches, as you cowardly run and hide when a complaint is actually made! I suggest that if you spent a quarter of your ‘meetings’ trying to set up policies and procedures that actually help protect the teams and their families, that you wouldn’t have to be spending half your time now putting out fires in the media and covering up such poor and unethical behaviors! I don’t know how you sleep at night.” 

Well said. 

USA Swimming Scandal – More Questions Than Answers With Curl Suspension

USA SWIMMING’S SUSPENSION OF CURL RAISES MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS 

“What was she doing there at that time of night to begin with?” 

“I know it’s not her fault, but if she didn’t dress in such a way, this probably never would have happened.” 

“I mean, they were both drinking so who knows what really occurred.”

Statements like these are invariably uttered when a rape or abuse case is brought to light, the ever-present “blame the victim” game. And while there can often be suspicious and extenuating circumstances present, it doesn’t really matter – a crime is a crime. Obviously one must never assume that a woman (or a man) is always telling the truth, because there are cases when someone is falsely accused and his reputation forever ruined. And such instances are tragic and should never be tolerated. Due diligence must always be paid. 

But it’s another thing altogether when a crime was clearly committed, when that said crime was acknowledged by the perpetrator as well as the victim, and there’s a parsing of words to somehow diminish the event or to somehow lay a bit of responsibility at the feet of the victim.  And, to a degree, this is what has transpired with USA Swimming’s handling of the Rick Curl suspension. 

More specifically, USA Swimming continues to put forth the woefully inaccurate notion that they were handcuffed by the fact that they didn’t know anything about Currin for all those years. And furthermore, more insultingly – and what is really the underlying issue at play here, the text and the subtext – is that USA Swimming appears to claim that had they been aware, they would have acted in immediate and comprehensive fashion. 

USA Swimming, in a pathetic attempt to prove that they were so enraged at the accusations heard about Curl that the sprang to action like volunteer firemen, released a dubious “timeline” of events.  Among the most darkly humorous aspects to their version of events is their assertion that they were first notified in April of 2011 about a possible sex crime against a swimmer by Rick Curl  … and it took 1 year to “locate her”.  It took one year for an investigator, a former FBI agent, to locate a victim of abuse by one of the most high profile coaches in the sport? And even though, in 2010 – before this search effort began – USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus stated, under oath, “that there was some sort of a settlement between Rick Curl and a victim or a victim’s family.” 

Like I keep saying, you can’t make this stuff up.  

As the articles I’ve penned over the last two months have pointed out, it has been acknowledged by many that it was “common knowledge” in the swimming world that Curl had committed such acts. This was brought front and center again this last week with the story that WBAL first broke regarding the lawsuit against Hall of Fame coach Mark Schubert. In the court papers, the complainant, Dia Rianda, is very clear in her remembrances that Schubert tearfully confessed he knew about the Curl case for decades and had informed USA Swimming thereof. 

And Technical Vice President of USA Swimming, David Berkoff, who is quoted in emails that he had heard for years about Rick Curl’s alleged (at the time) crimes, has joined the Greek chorus of denial from Colorado Springs, the soundtrack to this interminable narrative. Berkoff, in an angry rebuke to criticism directed at him, came out with a statement yesterday in which he defends his action – or, more to the point, inaction: “Mr. Allard (Ms. Currin’s lawyer) has chosen to publicly assign the highest moral blame upon me when it was his client and his client’s parents that entered into a confidential monetary settlement agreement that enabled Rick Curl to go unpunished for so long. In Rick Curl’s case, justice took far too long. However, when the victim and others with direct knowledge of abuse remain silent, little can happen to protect others.” 

While Berkoff  is clearly not the central figure in all of this, he is now in a position of influence at USA Swimming. And his statements have an underlying tone of “blame the victim.”  By stating that the victim was “silent” and saying that she and her parents were instrumental in keeping the case quiet, he is implying – or stating – that people like Mark Schubert also had no power. Because, after all, Currin did speak to Schubert.  And he apparently told Executive Director Wielgus. And Berkoff himself heard about Currin’s abuse  twenty years ago. So what’s the point for a victim like Currin to come forward in such an environment, when nobody seems to believe you – or, if they do believe you, it’s evident that nothing would be done. 

Doesn’t the world know by now that is always painful for a woman to come forward about any case of abuse, no matter to what degree or  how recent or distant the event. It is an inherently tormenting experience and the fear of retribution and retaliation is powerful and ever-present. It is downright vindictive to ever assume otherwise. 

And if USA Swimming has changed so much and is now willing to be open and transparent about their procedures regarding such vile incidents of sexual abuse, why did they not ban Curl specifically for sexual abuse – statutory rape, actually. 

In their ruling on Curl – a ruling that USA Swimming has said they will have no more comment on – they cited a statute in their code of conduct that states the organization can take action against someone, “who has violated any of its rules or regulations, or who aids, abets, and encourages another to violate any of its rules or regulations, or who has acted in a manner which brings disrepute upon the Corporation or upon the sport of swimming.” 

Disrepute? Violate regulations? It bears repeating – according to his own admission, Curl committed statutory rape.  Nearly all of the other coaches on the banned list are there because of sex abuse, as outlined in USA Swimming’s own code of conduct. But for some reason Curl’s case is different.  

I sought out Currin’s attorney Bob Allard for a response. Said Allard, “the banning of Rick Curl reeks of a sweetheart arrangement. Not only was Curl spared of having to testify and therefore potentially incriminating himself relating to future criminal proceedings, but he was not cited as a sex abuser, under Code of Conduct Section 304.3.8 or otherwise, as a basis for banishment. Instead, an archaic regulation that long ago was replaced was utilized. The section cited (450.1) is nowhere to be found in USA Swimming’s 2012 Rule Book. This shows, once again, that USA Swimming makes up rules as it goes along in its zeal to protect loyal coaches to every degree possible. The result is an underhanded slap in the face to sex abuse victims. Curl should be branded for what he is- a child molester.” 

And speaking of branding, if one scours the scant media coverage of the Curl suspension, words that are often ascribed to the story are “improper relationship” or “sexual relationship”. 

Kelley Currin was the victim of sexual abuse. Likely, of rape.

USA Swimming Scandal – USA Swimming Response to Schubert Story

USA SWIMMING’S NON-DENIAL DENIAL OF SCHUBERT STORY 

USA Swimming finally came out with a statement late Tuesday regarding the lawsuit filed against Hall of Fame swimming coach Mark Schubert, a story that was first reported here, exclusively for WBAL. 

The bulk of the statement reads as follows: 

USA Swimming is not a party to the lawsuit between Dia Rianda and Mark Schubert; however, because that suit makes various gratuitous accusations against USA Swimming, we will address the false premise underlying those accusations.

The resolution of the relationship between Mark Schubert and USA Swimming absolutely did not involve any cover-up of alleged sexual misconduct by Sean Hutchison or any other person. Rather, because of USA Swimming’s commitment to safe sport, the agreement between USA Swimming and Mr. Schubert specifically required that if Schubert had, or in the future, received reliable information involving a sexual misconduct Code of Conduct violation by a coach or other member of USA Swimming, he would bring that information to USA Swimming in writing and would testify at a National Board of Review proceeding if requested to do so by USA Swimming.

Regarding Bill Jewell, USA Swimming cannot comment on ongoing investigations. However, as a matter of process, when USA Swimming initiates a coach investigation, it immediately notifies the employing club.  As per the Amateur Sports Act, membership status cannot be affected without the opportunity for a hearing. Employment decisions during investigations are at the discretion of the employing club. 

The statement then concludes with a one-paragraph boilerplate description of their Safe Sport program. 

Among the “gratuitous accusations” that their statement does not deny are the following: 

·      The fact that a settlement between Mark Schubert and USA Swimming indeed exists

·      The fact that Schubert was paid at least $625,000. Why would they grant such a large sum if Schubert didn’t have merit with his demands?

·      The fact that Schubert was prohibited from publicly talking about either FAST (Fullerton Aquatic Sports Team) or sex abuse issues in general, that he instead was required to take information to their National Board of Review. By so doing, USA Swimming could basically control how the information was released

·      The information provided by Dia Rianda, the complainant, about Schubert’s – and USA Swimming’s – knowledge of Rick Curl

·      The information provided by Dia Rianda to USA Swimming regarding William Jewell

·      The fact that allegations continue to emerge about Sean Hutchison’s behavior – USA Swimming did not state that Hutchison is above suspicion. They did not categorically clear his name. 

Also, by stating that Sean Hutchison had nothing to do with any aspect of the Schubert settlement, it appears that USA Swimming is very comfortable that Schubert does not want to put in jeopardy the settlement he was rewarded and that USA Swimming doesn’t want to accuse Schubert of lying. For the time being at least, look for Schubert and USA Swimming to put up a quiet by united front. A very tenuous peace. When depositions are heard we are likely to inch closer to the truth on this matter. 

I’ve invoked All the President’s Men several times while writing about the USA Swimming sex abuse story and it’s instructive once again to refer to that most famous of American scandals; this response from USA Swimming is full of non-denial denials. 

Rick Curl Hearing: In a few hours time, USA Swimming’s National Board of Review will be discussing the Rick Curl case. As has been widely reported, Curl sexually abused Kelley Currin during the 1980’s and paid hush money to keep the issue quiet. The likely outcome is a lifetime suspension. If that is the case, that is the right thing. But the key question continues to linger, regarding accountability – who knew what and when about Rick Curl and why was nothing done about it? The ongoing investigation into the entire abuse scandal will not cease until the issue of accountability is satisfied. 

Currin herself came out with a statement late Tuesday regarding the hearing, as well as the Schubert lawsuit:

I have stated all along that numerous people in the swim world knew what Rick Curl did to me. It was the worst kept secret. I read the lawsuit filed against Mark Schubert. I am angry in reading that USA Swimming failed terribly when they had an opportunity to act against Rick Curl when coach Schubert informed Chuck Wielgus on numerous occasions about Curl’s molestation of me.

The fact that Chuck Wielgus and USA Swimming allegedly tried to cover up for Rick Curl by forcing Mark Schubert to accept hush money in return for signing a confidential agreement is outrageous. If USA Swimming has any integrity they would fire Wielgus and the rest of the staff that continues to protect sexual predators.” 

Stay tuned. This entire sordid mess is about to get worse in the coming weeks. 

A lot worse.

USA Swimming Scandal – Commentary

COMMENTARY:
BY ALLOWING COACHES TO DATE THEIR SWIMMERS,  USA SWIMMING HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO CHANGE LEADERSHIP AT THE TOP
 
“We have the highest levels of compassion and  concern for abuse victims, but we also must adhere to deliberative processes for those being accused of inappropriate conduct. We must give full respect to the role of law enforcement authorities, who have subpoena powers and investigative resources that USA Swimming does not have. While some may want to see swifter responses, we have learned that investigations take time and rights to privacy and due process for the individuals involved must be protected.
We also understand that some people become frustrated when uninformed viewpoints make their way into the viral world of social media and we are unable to correct the inaccuracies or shed a brighter light on critical facts; but it is more important that we maintain the integrity of process and the dignity of responsible communications.”
Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming Executive Director, speaking to the organization’s convention last Saturday
 
Since USA Swimming hasn’t responded to any of my email queries since March, I imagine I won’t get to find out if the scandal plagued organization considers WBAL part of the “viral world of social media.” And in terms of inaccuracies, if there are any in my reporting, USA Swimming has not made that known. The infinitely arrogant, defensive and mendacious posture struck in the above paragraphs is all the indication one needs to ascertain that USA Swimming hasn’t really changed that much since the abuse scandal broke in 2010.
 
As has been described on this site the last two months, the issue isn’t just about respecting “the role of law enforcement authorizes”, as Wielgus suggests above. Rather, it’s the continued failure to follow their own set of rules, their own protocols in the reporting of possible abuse taking place. What we’ve discovered is that for more than thirty years now, from Andy King to Rick Curl to the tragic case of Sarah Burt and now the latest story involving Hall of Fame coach Mark Schubert, USA Swimming’s own investigations are either nonexistent or woefully inadequate.
 
And, more importantly, this bears repeating with every article written about this scandal: there continues to be no accountability from those at the top of USA Swimming – no higher-up in Colorado Springs has been fired or resigned since the sex abuse crisis became public two years ago.
 
But in the ensuing days and weeks it will continue to become painfully apparent just how bad and far-reaching this crisis is.
 
In a complete abdication of journalistic responsibility, most of the major media outlets – actually, all of them, save for a couple – lazily ignored the USA Swimming scandal story since the summer of 2010. No follow-up, no checking in to see if things had really changed.  Unfortunately that’s the reality of the media now, as perspective and comprehensive analysis are frequently sacrificed upon the alters of immediacy and privileged access, and there remains an absence of sustained investigative reporting. The M.O. of modern reporting is thus:  get a comment from A, get a comment from B, and report down the middle (there will be an extended column on the media’s culpability in this scandal in the near future).
 
But some of them are back on board now, since WBAL’s continuing breaking news on the story – especially yesterday’s coverage about Mark Schubert. As I wrote on Monday this will likely be a turning point in this case as one will slowly hear a louder call – indeed,eventually a roar – in the coming weeks and months for those at the top at the organization’s headquarters in Colorado Springs to abandon their posts and spend time readying for the inevitable depositions.
 
Late yesterday afternoon I was on a conference call with four other reporters and listened to Dia Rianda and her attorney Robert Allard relay more details on the case.  It was evident that Ms. Rianda is not enjoying any of this.  Yet she is obviously determined to follow through with her suit and make known that this is, in the end, all about the kids.
 
In a clear and articulate rebuke to Chuck Wielgus’s emphasis on protecting coach’s rights outlined above, Rianda correctly stated that “this is all about protecting the kids. Thec hildren should come first, the swim club second and then the coaches.”
 
What struck me with her tone is that Rianda appears to be devoid of any ulterior motives – with her comfortable income, management of her own local swim club, devotion to underprivileged kids, and generous donations to USA Swimming, she is as above reproach a complainant as one can conjure.
 
Rianda also wanted to make it known that she believes the overwhelming number of people involved with USA Swimming at the local and national level have the best interests of swimmers at heart; additionally Rianda acknowledged that it’s good that there are procedures in place to deal with abuse – but, as Rianda also said, the ingrained culture within USA Swimming can’t truly change until those at the top are held accountable.
 
USA Swimming had little to say on Monday about the story, stating they choose not to comment “on open investigations. As a matter of process, when USA Swimming initiates a coach investigation, it immediately notifies the employing club. As per the Amateur Sports Act, membership status is not affected without the opportunity for a due process hearing. Employment decisions during investigations are the responsibility of the employing club.”
 
Apparently the organization will have additional comment on the Schubert lawsuit on Tuesday.
 
Another altogether stunning development the last several days took place at the swimming convention last weekend when, incredulously, an amendment to ban coach-student relationships between adults over 18 years of age was not approved. 
 
While some may believe that a woman of 18 or 20 is free to be with whomever she desires, it’s an altogether different dynamic if she has been under the tutelage of a coach for years prior. Any respectable psychologist will declare that the grooming of a woman often starts in the early teen years – the period when many young girls start feeling attached to their swim coaches – and that a coach can look forward to the time that she comes of age so he can begin a physical manifestation of affection.
 
It is obviously not illegal for a coach, say aged 30, to be involved with a woman of 18 or 19. But that doesn’t make it right in the context of a coach-student relationship. And, if the relationship is truly so all-important, than the coach should abandon his duties as an instructor.
 
What is so difficult to understand is why, after continued stories of abuse, would a national organization – a nonprofit government sanctioned body – not do the safe thing and ban such behavior?
 
But perhaps it’s really not that tough to comprehend; after all, John Leonard and his American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) group have an outsized influence at USA Swimming.  And consider that Leonard married one of his former swimmers. As did Pat Hogan, the USA Swimming Club Development Managing Director (Hogan is also the one who gave banned coach Everett Uchiyama the positive reference for a country club coaching position even though he knew of Uchiyama’s past behavior). Hogan married one of his swimmers who he had coached since she was 16, and developed a relationship when she was 17 (they laterdivorced).
 
Additionally, if such an amendment had passed it would have focused further attention on the Sean Hutchison situation. As referenced in yesterday’s column, Rianda’s complaint implies that Hutchison was quietly escorted out the door without punishment after it became known, from many sources, that he was involved with an of-age swimmer. And the Schubert lawsuit also makes it known Schubert allegedly made an agreement that, “he would not publicly speak about any sexual abuse issues in general, including what he knew about Kelley Currin, Rick Curl and USA Swimming’sknowledge of same.”
 
Stay tuned. There is much more to come. Wednesday is the board of review hearing for Richard Curl. We’ll see if a) he is permanently suspended and b) if those in charge at USA Swimming who allegedly  knew all along about Curl – Wielgus et. al – will suffer any consequences.
 
Correction: I mistakenly stated in my article on Monday that Dia Rianda is a founding member of the USA Swimming Foundation.That is incorrect; she is a founding member of the US Masters SwimmingFoundation.
 
Sean Hutchison also contacted me after the article was posted, saying that,  “there was an investigation done by a professional independent organization on this matter which cleared me from any allegations.”

USA Swimming Scandal – The Fall of Hall of Fame Coach Mark Schubert

ALL FALL DOWN – DRAMATIC NEW COURT CASE LIKELY TO CAUSE DOMINO EFFECT AT USA SWIMMING

 

Part 1

 

In a blockbuster lawsuit being filed Monday morning in California Superior Court in Orange County, legendary Hall of Fame swim coach Mark Schubert is accused of wrongful termination of his former employee, Dia Rianda, in July of this year. The claim states that Schubert fired Rianda because of her persistence with alerting Schubert of continued inappropriate behavior by William Jewell, Schubert’s friend and assistant at the Golden West Swim Club (GWSC).

 

Additionally, the complaint also alleges that Schubert used damaging information that he acquired about another coach – relating to improper contact with swimmers – as leverage to secure a lucrative settlement with USA Swimming; Schubert himself was dismissed by USA Swimming from his powerful role as National Coach in late 2010 following his behavior at the Pan Pacific Championships that year. Even further, the suit implies that USA Swimming yet again participated in a cover-up by quietly hushing up an inappropriate coach-student relationship by a rising star among the coaching ranks.

 

In a flash of comedic and brutal irony, this lawsuit comes just days after the Colorado Springs-based entity of mendacity – otherwise known as USA Swimming – came out with a much publicized interview with the Associated Press in which the organization said that they’ve made tremendous progress in rooting out the abusive behavior in the sport. “ They (USA Swimming membership) know the complaints and sanctioning process works efficiently and effectively. I see that as a positive”, stated Susan Woessner, the Athlete Protection Officer of USA Swimming.

 

One couldn’t make this stuff up.

 

This is a particularly complicated and complex chapter within the novel that makes up the USA Swimming sexual abuse scandal.  This case is especially important because it reaches all facets of the power structure of USA Swimming and involves one of the true legends within the sport. After all Mr. Schubert was a coach on eight consecutive Olympic teams from 1980 through 2008 and was the head coach of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Among the Olympians he’s coached was Janet Evans.

 

Rianda, a well respected coach and woman of unimpeachable integrity within the United States swimming community, is suing her former business partner and friend Schubert for violating the California Labor Code which prohibits such action on the sole basis of someone having made a bona fide oral or written complaint.

 

Rianda’s motives for her lawsuit appear to be unassailable; she is herself the head coach of the Monterey County Swim Club and is a founding member of the USA Swimming Foundation.  Rianda and her family have contributed more than $100,000 worth of cash and other donations to USA Swimming.

 

When I spoke with Rianda she says she feels “deeply betrayed and let down by men who I had once – and foolishly – considered heroes.”

 

The complaint states that on numerous occasions Rianda went to Schubert with concerns that Jewell’s behavior with young female swimmers crossed the line of propriety. Rianda pleaded with Schubert that unless he took proactive steps, the Golden West Swim Club and Schubert’s reputation could be on the line.

 

In Rianda’s eyes, Jewell’s actions were a clear violation of the GWSC rules that state, “team members and staff will refrain from any illegal or inappropriate behavior that would detract from a positive image of the team or would be detrimental to its performance objectives.” After witnessing Jewell’s actions up close and also listening to the complaints of other parents and swimmers, Rianda saw no other choice than to take a stand and confront Schubert with what she knew. 

 

At a certain point Schubert told Rianda that he had indeed looked into the matter and had informed USA Swimming and that USA Swimming had cleared Jewell to continue to be on deck working with young swimmers. Upon hearing this Rianda then contacted Woessner who informed her that USA Swimming was in fact still investigating Jewell (Rianda also  followed up with Woessner several times to report what she had witnessed in terms of code of conduct violations and hasn’t heard back from her).  And to further confuse matters, a lawyer from Bryan Cave, the law firm that oversee all investigations for USA Swimming, told Schubert’s lawyer that it was OK for Jewell to continue coaching while the investigation was ongoing.

 

It is instructive to go back in time a couple of years and trace the evolution of this story that has several damning angles. 

 

In the late summer of 2009, Schubert, who was serving as National Team Director for USA Swimming, recruited Sean Hutchison from Washington state, a young rising star within the coaching ranks, to assist in the running of the Elite Training Center at Fullerton Aquatic Sports Team (FAST) in southern California. At the time Jewell was the CEO of FAST. It must be noted that,  according to numerous sources, while at FAST Jewell was the subject of complaints by the parents of Tyler Clary, 2012 Olympic gold medalist, who felt that Jewell’s behavior towards young girls clearly crossed the line.

 

According to the court document, a power struggle ensued at FAST between Schubert and Hutchison with Schubert wanting to maintain control of the training center (with Jewell as his trusted associate). Around this same time rumors surfaced that Hutchison was involved with a female swimmer he was coaching.  This has been confirmed by five sources I’ve spoken to who said it was “open knowledge” that Hutchison was acting inappropriately with at least one young female swimmer.

 

Schubert then seized upon this opportunity to gather damaging information on Hutchison and boasted to Rianda about hiring a private investigator and securing photographs catching Hutchison in the act. But rather than using this information to inform USA Swimming that one of their star coaches was acting in a wrong manner, Schubert held on to this knowledge in case it turned out to be useful later on. And indeed it did.

 

In the summer of 2010, after exhibiting behavior unbecoming to a coach of such lofty repute at the Pan Pacific Championships, USA Swimming informed Schubert that he was put on leave from his position. He was then fired as National Head Coach in November of 2010.

 

Obviously angry at his dismissal, Schubert then took matter into his own hands and decided to use his alleged incriminating evidence against Hutchison, as a way to leverage his bargaining position with USA Swimming.  The suit maintains that Schubert leaked information regarding Hutchison to reporter Amy Shipley of the Washington Post (Ms. Shipley is no longer writing for the Post), and she reported on the story in late December of 2010.

 

USA Swimming then came out with a statement saying that Hutchison was fully investigated and exonerated of any wrongdoing. However, Hutchison then abruptly left FAST and went back to the King Aquatic Club in Washington where he is currently the head coach. If there was no veracity to the rumors of inappropriate behavior, why did Hutchison leave such a prestigious job at FAST after only a year on the job? I reached out to Hutchison for comment but did not get an answer. When Hutchison was queried on this matter in early 2011, he claimed that had always wanted to attempt various entrepreneurial directions, hence his intention to open up a new training center in the northwest.

 

Then, after initially refusing to negotiate a settlement with Schubert as they felt they had solid grounds for his dismissal, USA Swimming does an about-face and ends up working out an agreement with Schubert whereby he was awarded over $600,000. In return, Rianda states in the filing, Schubert signed an agreement that says he cannot speak publicly about any confidential matters related to USA Swimming (i.e. Hutchison). And, more specifically, he must only speak up about issues of sexual abuse within USA Swimming if deposed.

 

The themes of retaliation and cover-up that have been the hallmark of the USA Swimming sexual abuse saga continue; Rianda, a woman who is trying to do the right thing, who is heartbroken about having to be the one to come forward, is punished while USA Swimming, in the name of protecting the entrenched old boys network, awards Schubert with a lucrative settlement and lets Hutchison walk away without any further investigation.

 

In another example of the interconnectedness with this whole scandal,  the Rianda case also brings us back full circle to Richard Curl. Curl, as has been reported, is the coach who sexually abused Kelley Currin for years in the 1980’s.  Rianda claims that Schubert, on three separate occasions, tearfully told her that he could have done more for Currin but didn’t.  Schubert was Currin’s coach at the University of Texas and Currin had gone to Schubert and told him of what had happened between herself and Curl.  But Schubert only furthered Currin’s troubles by forcing her off his team after she was having trouble dealing with everything that had occurred.

 

Schubert made it known to Rianda that he did tell Chuck Wielgus and others at USA Swimming headquarters about Curl’s abusive behavior.  So yet eve more evidence that the higher-ups at USA Swimming knew about Curl and did nothing.

 

This new court case is undeniably tragic on several levels, not least of which is the way Rianda, who has devoted much of her adult life to growing the sport and to helping many at-needs children, was treated. It’s also quite sad that Schubert, a man of immense coaching ability and who was once a great advocate for compensating athletes in the face of resistance from the Olympic establishment, will likely be remembered for being another participant in the sordid mess of the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal.

 

In Part 2 tomorrow – more details on how this case unfolded and a discussion of happenings at the USA Swimming convention this past weekend, and some words on the silence that is deafening from the USOCAll effort was made to contact all those mentioned in this story. None provided a comment. 

USA Swimming Scandal – David Berkoff

USA SWIMMING SCANDAL:  THE CURIOUS CASE OF DAVID BERKOFF

 

“Denying knowledge of Rick Curl, Mitch Ivey and others banging their swimmers! It’s a flat out lie. They knew about it because we (coaches and athletes) were all talking about it in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s. I was told by several of Mitch Ivey’s swimmers that he was sleeping with ******* in 1988 … I was told Rick Curl was molesting Kelly Davies for years starting when she was 12 by some of the Texas guys. That was the entire reason I formed the abuse subcommittee. I was sick and tired of this crap. No one was standing up. No one was willing to take on these perverts. John Leonard (head of the American Swim Coach Association) was on the subcommittee and told me he was opposed to an all-out ban on swimmer-coach relationships because he had married one of his former swimmers. I finally threw in the towel out of frustration because no one wanted to stand up for background checks or banning coach-swimmer relationships.”  David Berkoff, 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist, writing in an email dated 7/26/2010. (The email was first made public last week on writer Irv Muchnick’s site, concussioninc.net)

 

 

“As for the 2010 email you posted, this is old news. More critically, what I wrote was true as to my recollection of 22 years ago. There were rumors. I heard them. However, I had no first-hand knowledge of whether these rumors were true …David Berkoff, now the Technical Vice President for USA Swimming, in an email dated 8/23/2012, responding to the posting of the above referenced email on a swimming blog site

 

 

Indeed, those rumors that David Berkoff – one of the great and most innovative swimmers this country has ever produced – heard were all too painfully true, as has since been revealed.

 

And he knows it.

 

But why does Mr. Berkoff now cast off his original anger and passion as just “rumor” and saying it was all those years ago, when in fact so much has come out in recent weeks that validate the accusations against Rick Curl and others?  Is it because he is now part of the proverbial system, a cog in the all-powerful non-profit that is USA Swimming?

 

If so, it’s an apparently marked change from his pattern of behavior as one who challenges authority.

 

Just consider his stellar swimming career. While at Harvard under the tutelage of legendary coach Joe Bernal, Berkoff invented what became to be known as the “Berkoff blast-off,” whereby Berkoff would begin each race by diving five feet into the water, with hands locked together, and then launch himself, submerged, with a dolphin kick and then surface more than 30 yards into the race where he would then carry on with the conventional backstroke.  

It was a revolutionary innovation that forever changed competitive swimming. And many in the sport weren’t happy about it. The ever-conservative bodies that rule over the swim world were furious, to put it mildly.  Especially angry was the Federation Internationalse de Natation Amatuer (FINA), the world swimming governing body. FINA was so displeased that they imposed an immediate ban on the Berkoff tactic.

 

The New York Times reporting on the ban at the time stated, “Berkoff is the fastest backstroke swimmer in history, the man who revolutionized a stroke so well that his new method has been banned internationally.” Berkoff himself was irritated by FINA’s all too predictable squashing of innovation, stating, ”I ruffled their feathers. They smacked me on the head. I did something to their game. I thought of it before they did.”

 

The ban was eventually removed.

 

And Berkoff was a trailblazer in terms of voicing his disgust with what he heard and trying to effect change at USA Swimming when he was on the Board of the organization. Said Berkoff in the same email exchange that is referenced at the start, “22 years ago—when I was a 24 year old swimmer—I confronted a problem that I saw as unjust. I formed the first abuse subcommittee in 1991 and the committee’s work formed the basis for the Code of Conduct. I quit the Board for several reasons in 1992.”

 

In September of 2010, while USA Swimming was reeling from the initial reports of sexual abuse by their coaches – especially Andy King – Berkoff was elected to the Board where he now serves as Technical Vice President.

 

Was Berkoff brought in to clean things up? Or did USA Swimming want to, as they say, keep their enemies close.  By having Berkoff in their camp, USA Swimming was able to maintain a close watch on a person who previously had been one of the organization’s harshest critics, as well as being someone of unimpeachable integrity, and an Olympic champion.

 

Berkoff has made strides in advancing child protection. Berkoff stated in that same email to a blog site that, “I got back into the USAS arena in 2010 largely because the athlete protection issue seemed to need more work. I drafted several versions of a new athlete protection policy before ever stepping onto the Board. I advocated for mandatory reporting, a reporting hotline, defining sexual misconduct, education, and no statutes of limitation. That year USAS passed the most ground-breaking and cutting edge athlete protection policies of any NGB .”

 

And this should be commended.

 

Yet where Berkoff’s credibility comes into question is in the area of accountability.  Now that it’s become obvious that many higher-ups at USA Swimming were aware of Rick Curl and other abusive coaches, why doesn’t’ Berkoff speak out? Does he feel that the past is the past and there’s no point in punishing those who enabled abuse to go on unchecked for decades?  Is there some sort of unspoken agreement that Berkoff can rant all he wants about changing the system but there is to be no mention of accountability for those entrenched individuals who were in charge of the house when all the abuse issues were occurring – like USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus or individuals at the Bryan Cave law firm that oversees all their “investigations” into abuse, or John Leonard, the de facto head of the swim coaches association.

 

I go back to the quote from this past January from Jamie Fabos Olsen, the marketing director for USA Swimming, mentioned in my first article in this series, when I first inquired about this scandal – “We chose to move on and not dwell on the past.”

 

But there is no statute of limitations on accountability, most especially when these same people are in power and not one major figure – no one – has resigned from USA Swimming.

 

A person who is deeply familiar with the matter, speaking anonymously of Berkoff, said, “it seemingly appears that when politicians get elected to office in places such as Washington, they suddenly drink that water from the Potomac and something definitely changes them. Perhaps the water at Colorado Springs is no different.”

 

Emails to Mr. Berkoff and others were not returned.