USA Swimming Scandal – More Questions Than Answers With Curl Suspension

by timothyjoyce


“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.