Thursday, August 2, is the date of a preliminary hearing in a Fairfax County, Virginia, criminal court for Noah Rucker, a coach at the Curl-Burke Swim Club who is accused of three felony counts of indecent liberties with a child while in a custodial or supervisory relationship. The charges stem from Rucker’s alleged sex acts 11 years ago with a high school swimmer he was coaching.
The Rucker case does not have as high a profile as that of Rick Curl, his boss at Curl-Burke. But both cases speak to the culture of abuse in age-group swimming, as well as to the opaque investigative procedures of USA Swimming.
Rucker, 39, was arrested June 22, released on $5,000 bond, and ordered to surrender his passport and have no contact with his accuser. She told police Rucker had had inappropriate contact with her on three occasions in 2001, when he was the swim coach and she was a student-athlete under him at Madison High School in Vienna.
The same day, USA Swimming announced, “”Upon learning of the arrest of Noah Rucker, coaches from the area immediately reported to USA Swimming’s Safe Sport officer, who has initiated the emergency hearing process.”
Four days later, at the Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, I approached Karen Linhart, USA Swimming’s public relations director, and asked if there was an update on the Rucker case.
“We’re here for a competition, not to talk about that,” Linhart snapped, before threatening to have security eject me from the CenturyLink Center.
Last week The Washington Post reported that Curl, in confirmation of one of the swim world’s worst-kept secrets, made installment payments, beginning in 1989 and totaling $150,000, to the family of his swimmer Kelley Davies (now Kelley Currin) as part of a “non-disclosure agreement” relating to his repeated molestations of her, beginning in 1983 when she was 13 years old.
USA Swimming had been aware of the Curl hush money scheme for a long time – possibly years or even decades earlier, but certainly since April 2012, when a USA Swimming investigator finally interviewed Currin. Despite that, Curl received coaching credentials for the Olympic Trials. Only on the eve of publication of the Post report did the organization initiate the same “emergency hearing process” for Curl that it had invoked for his underling Rucker.
The Post’s Amy Shipley wrote, “Emergency hearings generally take place in about 10 days; the board can rule to suspend membership pending a full board review that would occur within about another 45 days.”
My own information was that Currin had been invited to testify against Curl at a hearing yesterday, Monday the 30th. Through her attorney Bob Allard, Currin refused to attend, on the grounds that USA Swimming had more than enough documentary evidence in its possession and that the organization’s hearing process is illegitimate.
I continue to seek clarification from USA Swimming on the status of both the Rucker and Curl files. Again, bear in mind that the organization historically has ignored such inquiries.
USA Swimming’s published list of coaches and officials who are banned for misconduct – which has grown from around 40 names in the wake of a 2010 investigation by ABC’s 20/20, to 64 at the time of its most recent revision, on June 4 – is at http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewMiscArticle.aspx?TabId=1963&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en&mid=10011&ItemId=5107.
USA Swimming also maintains a much larger secret “flagged” list of personnel with known accusations of misconduct, many of them in published media accounts. One version of the flagged list, compiled by USA Swimming board member David Berkoff and introduced into the record of one of the numerous ongoing sex abuse civil lawsuits, can be viewed at http://muchnick.net/berkofflist.pdf.