Meth Possession Arrest of Son of Rapist Hall of Fame Coach Paul Bergen Just the Start of New Round of Scandals in Florida Swimming

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by Irvin Muchnick

At, the swimming news site SwimSwam reports the arrest in Florida on drug possession charges of coach Linck Bergen:

“The 55-year old Bergen was arrested on August 21st at 10:20PM for possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. His wife, Michelle, was also arrested on the same charges. Both were released on $2,500 bonds each. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrest records, the controlled substance was methamphetamines. Linck Bergen’s profession in the arrest records is listed as ‘coach.’ The paraphernalia charge is a class 1 misdemeanor in Florida, while the possession of a controlled substance is a class 3 felony.”

Though I no longer attempt to compile anything close to a comprehensive record of scandals inside USA Swimming — too many bad actors, too few hours in the day — this item attracted my interest for a couple of reasons.

And the fact that Linck Bergen is the son of International Swimming Hall of Fame coach Paul Bergen, a ground-zero figure in the history of exposure of coach sexual abuse, is only the second reason.

The main reason is that I had been tipped at the beginning of the summer that Linck Bergen was poking around the Tampa Bay area in search of a coaching job. Bergen indeed would be hired in July by the Greater Tampa Swim Association.

The tip came from a parent who was pushing me to report on the misconduct — sexual misconduct — of another local coach, Ryan Gober of the University of Tampa and Plant High School. I’ll publish the details of the allegations against Gober later this week, after first giving the university and the high school an opportunity to respond and comment.

SwimSwam notes that Bergen was fired in 2014 by the Tualatin Hills Swim Club in Oregon. This was the year after Tualatin Hills, which is sponsored by Nike, finally got around to taking Paul Bergen’s name off the annual Paul Bergen Junior International meet in Beaverton. My Concussion Inc. colleague at the time, Tim Joyce, and I had just been questioning the team, the sponsor, and the local park district that hosted the event about their association with one of swimming’s most notorious abusers.

In Cincinnati in the 1960s, Bergen molested across a number of years Deena Deardurff Schmidt, who would go on to win a gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. She came forward in 2010, and that became the foundation of the first nationally televised exposes of widespread USA Swimming abuse by ABC’s 20/20 and ESPN’s Outside the Lines.

During the 2013 Concussion Inc. coverage of the Paul Bergen International meet controversy, I added to the record the first-hand account of Bergen’s abuse of another Cincinnati swimmer,  Melissa Halmi, when he coached her at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In the endless interlacing of coaching trees and locales in USA Swimming’s longstanding culture and practice of coach impunity for the widely known abuse of (mostly) teenage girls, the Bergen story will have added importance in our upcoming coverage. This is because Halmi, by later telling a prospective employer of Bergen what he had done to her, would cost him a prestigious position with an ambitious (though ultimately short-lived) program in Boca Raton, Florida. And the coach who was selected to replace Bergen, Mark Schubert, is himself a major figure in what looks very much like an historical pipeline of swimming coach abuses between South Florida and Souhern California. In the coming months, I expect to be writing a lot more about all this fits together.

In the meantime, more shortly on Ryan Gober, the latest emerging name in swimming’s cast of bad actors.

Links to Concussion Inc.’s Coverage of Rapist Swim Coach Paul Bergen and the Not-Paul Bergen Meet This Weekend in Oregon (in reverse chronological order) Published December 12th, 2013

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick