Washington Post and Other National News Media Are Missing in Action on USA Swimming Sex Abuse

Accused Sex-Abusing Coach Kenneth Fuller Swiftly Added to USA Swimming Banned List – But No Announcement of Date or Outcome of His ‘Emergency Hearing’
September 4, 2012
Australia’s Carlile Swim School: Rick Curl Was Not Our Business Partner
September 4, 2012

Amy Shipley, the Washington Post reporter who, on the eve of the Olympics, broke the story of celebrated national team and club coach Rick Curl’s abusive sexual relationship in the 1980s with then-13-year-old Kelley Davies, recently left the newspaper. Shipley is now with the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

I suggest nothing nefarious in Shipley’s departure from The Post. Maybe she had an aversion to the cherry blossoms in the nation’s capital, or she has to care for a sick relative in Florida, or she wants a better career opening to write about college football. Shipley never returned emails sent by me to her Post account and did not respond to the most recent one I sent to her personal account.

Another Post journalist who didn’t respond to an email was Bryan Flaherty, who edits the newspaper’s site on swimming news in the D.C. area, reachforthewall.com. Maybe they should change the name to “reach for the blinders and ear muffs dot com.”

Shipley and Flaherty are under no obligation to engage your humble blogger. But The Washington Post, like other major news organs, has done zero enterprise journalism on the widespread sex abuse involving the 300,000 kid swimmers and 12,000 coaches under the auspices of USA Swimming, our national sport governing body as authorized by the U.S. Olympic Committee pursuant to a 1979 act of Congress. And I don’t mind being the only person to say so out loud.

Casey Barrett, a Canadian Olympian who started a swim school in New York and operates the blog capandgoggles.com, has called coach Rick Curl’s sexual abuse of Kelley Davies, through the middle and late 1980s, “the worst-kept secret in Washington.” And I have published the full text of David Berkoff’s 2010 email in which the Olympic gold medalist, now in his second stint on the USA Swimming board, made it clear how widely the Curl-Davies story circulated among insiders and people in high positions of the organized sport.

Yet Shipley’s Post account – of some value, for sure, for having been published at all and for revealing the 1989 $150,000 “non-disclosure agreement” between Curl and the Davies family – included none of this.

Nor did the Post article note that it took Shipley all of two weeks to locate Kelley Davies-Currin in Texas in 2010, and it took USA Swimming’s “investigator” nearly two years.

The Post also helpfully allowed a USA spokesperson to edit her preposterous prepared statement on the Curl matter, between editions of the newspaper, to make it come off as slightly less preposterous.

Shipley and The Post had run a puff piece on Curl when he returned to his Curl-Burke Swim Club after four years in the late 2000s in Australia, where he supposedly learned the ropes of the wildly successful Carlile Swim School there. They never broached speculation that Curl might also have been fleeing the country because he was hot.

The reasons behind Curl’s dismissal as swimming coach at the University of Maryland in 1988, after a single year on the job? The contradictions in and serious implausibility of USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus’s statements about Curl in a civil lawsuit deposition? Not a word on any of these topics from The Post, so far as I know. The newspaper of Woodward and Bernstein has told readers only that Curl is on “provisional suspension,” and after Curl’s September 19 hearing by the organization’s review board, The Post no doubt will regurgitate the outcome of that – that is, unless it doesn’t feel like it that day.

(Similarly, Post readers have learned that Noah Rucker, a coach at Curl-Burke who is under criminal indictment on the charge of having sex with one of his athletes when he coached her in high school, is on “suspension,” but not whether it is a “provisional suspension” or a “permanent suspension.” I guess the USA Swimming handout didn’t say.)

A harsh critique? Yes – and a richly deserved one. The major media’s failure to connect the dots of the national swimming scandal, which has the effect of keeping youth athletes at ongoing risk from pedophiles, is a disgrace.


Irv Muchnick

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick