A Few Words About ID’ing Sex-Abusing Swimming Coaches

USA Swimming FAQ Assures ‘Board Members and Others’ That They’re Not Riding on the Titanic, They’re Just Making a Stop for Ice
October 4, 2012
Michael Phelps’ Coach, Bob Bowman, ‘Cannot Comment’ on Story of Sex Abuse at North Baltimore Aquatic Club. English Translation: The Story Is True.
October 4, 2012

Tim Joyce did an excellent interview today on WBAL about his story on the prominent coach at Michael Phelps’ North Baltimore Aquatic Club who is accused of molesting swimmers over a period of many years prior to his quiet departure last year. Audio links of the interview are now on the same page as the text of the article: http://www.wbal.com/article/94454/30/template-story/Swimming-Coach-Accused-Of-Molestation-At-Michael-Phelps-North-Baltimore-Aquatic-Club.

The coach in Joyce’s story hasn’t yet been named. Which leads me to explain my own level of aggressiveness in taking such steps.

The standard institutional cover — a card USA Swimming plays like a karaoke machine — is that, in large part, it is protecting victims when it withholds publication of investigative facts in pre-police stages of development. This defense omits one obvious slice of bull and one less obvious one. The obvious one is that the asses USA Swimming and its highly paid executives want to protect are their own. The less obvious one is that strong evidence of sex crimes against children has unique legal and moral reporting thresholds to police and other agencies, and it even has specified administrative standards within USA Swimming itself. Those standards are openly thwarted, as Joyce’s Baltimore story shows so well. The North Baltimore Aquatic Club did most of the right things in swiftly removing the coach from the premises, but the Colorado Springs headquarters of our U.S. Olympic Committee’s national swimming body sat on the astoundingly damning reports given to it, which cried out for dissemination in the name of community safety.

While we wait for the guessing game on the Baltimore coach’s identity to give way to the reveal in the very near future, let’s review a couple of other cases: Paul Bergen and Rick Curl.

On ABC’s 20/20 two years ago, former gold medalist Deena Deardurff-Schmidt disclosed that she had been raped in girlhood by her Hall of Fame coach. That coach was Paul Bergen. Now, if Bergen wants to sic WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt on me for saying as much, ole Jerry knows where to find me. My daddy once said to me, “Sue for libel and I’m liable to prove you wrong.” I haven’t a shred of doubt where the equities of both legality and fairness lie in this one, and it is my supreme pleasure (in this particular regard, anyway) to be free of the publishers who vet not for purposes of professionalism and accuracy, but out of self-censorship.

Somewhere between his tenures as a chest-pounding whistleblower of swimming abuses and an über-bureaucrat who couldn’t even persuade the USA Swimming convention to pass a measure this year banning coach-athlete sexual relationships, the organization’s technical vice president, David Berkoff, compiled a rendition of its list of coaches who are not publicly banned but, rather, secretly “flagged.” There you’ll find that Bergen was “impliedly accused” by Deardurff-Schmidt, along with a Wikipedia link. See http://muchnick.net/berkofflist.pdf.

In another quarter-century-old scandal that finally went public this year, former swimmer Kelley Davies, now Kelley Currin, revealed that her youth coach Rick Curl molested her repeatedly from the age of 13.

Ever since, I have regularly placed the words “rapist” or “statutory rapist” in front of Curl’s name in headlines and in the bodies of posts — for that is exactly what he is. In 1989 he paid off the Davies family to the tune of $150,000. An attachment to this non-disclosure agreement is an explicit list of explicit acts by Curl, an adult, against Kelley, an underage girl, which was prepared for submission to a court. The Washington Post can go right ahead and own the phrase “inappropriate relationship,” which resulted in Curl’s expulsion from USA Swimming for bringing “disrepute to the Corporation.” Good luck to the readers of this, and of The Post‘s intermittently good coverage of governmental affairs, in trying to decode the euphemisms of the season.

Like Bergen, Curl knows where I am if he wants to dispute my choice of words. I’ll even let him write a guest column on how anguished he is over what he had always assumed was a set of tender and loving interactions with the girl Kelley Davies’ mother and father had placed under his coaching and “life skills” supervision.

Today, thanks to Tim Joyce and WBAL, there’s Baltimore’s Mr. X. But he won’t be Mr. X for long.

Irv Muchnick

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