In the previous post we published Kelley Davies Currin’s victim impact statement at Rick Curl’s sentencing hearing. Curl got seven years in prison. Here is her statement to the media outside the courthouse.
The reference in Davies Currin’s statement to the “attached email” is a message by Berkoff, first published in full at Concussion Inc. on August 23, 2012. See “EXCLUSIVE: Full Text of 2010 Email Confirms That USA Swimming Board Member David Berkoff Noted Widespread Knowledge of Coach Rick Curl’s Sexual Abuse,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=5902. The email is viewable at http://muchnick.net/berkoffchidaexchange.pdf.
The sexual molestation committed by Rick Curl and subsequent payoff to silence me has been called the worst kept secret in the swim world. Yet today it is appalling that a number of people in positions of authority had the opportunity to take action against Rick Curl and each one of them failed miserably.
Now that justice has been levied against Rick Curl, it is time to hold accountable USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus and Vice President David Berkoff, as well as former USA Swimming National Team Director and Hall of Fame coach Mark Schubert, for their actions in helping create a culture that protects predator coaches and vilifies young victims who have the courage to come forward.
Wielgus, Berkoff, and Coach Schubert all had knowledge of Rick Curl’s sexual abuse of me and selfishly decided to look the other way. While I was battling demons from the childhood molestation, Wielgus, Berkoff, and Coach Schubert contributed to the glorification of Rick Curl by allowing him to coach at one of the most prestigious swim centers in the country for almost two decades, supporting his induction into the swimming Hall of Fame, and providing him with center stage status at the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Leaders are put in positions of authority to make difficult and tough decisions, especially when it comes to protecting children. Wielgus, Berkoff, and Coach Schubert flunked the leadership test. On behalf of countless other swimmers with similar stories, I am calling for Wielgus and Berkoff to immediately resign from USA Swimming and allow real leaders with the commitment to protect molestation victims to take over. Further, Schubert and others should be immediately be banned by USA Swimming for refusing to protect not only me as a young swimmer but others who may have subsequently victimized by Rick Curl.
Thinking back over the last 30 years I am gravely disappointed that numerous people in a position of power had a chance to do the “right thing” by speaking out against Rick Curl and taking steps to ensure that minors were protected from him. One person after another was presented with an opportunity to think beyond their own interests and do what is best for children. Each of these persons demonstrated that they were mere weaklings who selfishly chose to remain silent and do nothing. Who knows how many children have been affected due to these feeble decisions?
Let me start with former University of Maryland Athletic Director Dick Dull who was in office at the time that Rick Curl’s sexual molestation of me came to light. My parents went to him as Rick Curl was the head swim coach at the University. While thankful that he terminated Rick Curl from his position, Dull took no further action.
Mitch Ivey, who is a former United States Olympic coach and a suspected pedophile himself, is one of the first coaches I told about my sex abuse at the August 1987 Pan Pac Championships. I got no reaction from him. He did not say a word. He took no action.
After arriving at the University of Texas, I told the story of my abuse to a room full of people at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes gathering in Austin, Texas in 1987. UT head men’s swim coach Eddie Reese was present. I sat down with Mr. Reese afterwards and provided him with more details as to what happened to me. He took no action. I also told UT head women’s coach Richard Quick about my abuse in 1987, who just said, “I’m sorry” and, at least to my knowledge, took no action. Coach Quick knew what I was going through in my freshman year. Even though I finished second in the NCAA 200 Butterfly, Coach Quick decided that I should go to the hospital for my eating disorder only if I did not make the Olympic team. Since I finished sixth at the Olympic Trials in 1988, I was admitted to the hospital from mid-August until mid-October of that same year. It was no secret why I was hospitalized. Jill Sterkel, then the UT assistant women’s swim coach, came to the hospital to visit as did Randa Ryan, the then on-deck assistant women’s swim coach and now the University of Texas Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director.
Coach Quick left the University of Texas for Stanford in 1988 and was replaced by legendary swim coach Mark Schubert, who was the USA Swimming National Team Head Coach from 2009 through 2010. Schubert knew when he arrived at UT in 1989 what Rick Curl did to me. I told him.To Coach Schubert, however, I was just another swimmer. When he learned that I was abused and was suffering both mentally and physically, Coach Schubert’s reaction was to remove me from all UT swimming programs. I was deemed a distraction and therefore expendable. Coach Schubert tossed me aside like a piece of trash. Coach Schubert otherwise took no action at that time as he was obviously more concerned about himself rather than the athletes he was trusted to safeguard by their parents. I continued to try to swim for two more years but lacked the support that I needed and was left with no choice but to leave the sport before the 1992 Olympic Trials.
Perhaps the most glaring example of ineptitude is the story of former Olympic gold medalist and current Vice President David Berkoff. Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Mr. Berkoff was part of a group of swimmers which was discussing “over a handful of beers” that Rick Curl was “banging” me and that Mitch Ivey was sleeping with one of his swimmers (see attached email). Mr. Berkoff claimed that he formed a subcommittee when he became part of the USA Swimming Board of Directors in the early 1990’s in order to address pervasive sex abuse within USA Swimming and that the idea was “shot down” by John Leonard, the then and current Executive Director of the American Swim Coaches Association (“ASCA”).
When it came time to testify under penalty of perjury in a deposition in January of 2012, however, Mr. Berkoff significantly “backed off” from that comment and generally did not remember anything about this process. “Just an idea that was kicked around without anything formalized” is essentially how Mr. Berkoff described it in deposition. USA Swimming otherwise has no documents as to this alleged “subcommittee”. Mr. Berkoff has otherwise, to my knowledge, done nothing about Rick Curl for literally decades. Mr. Berkoff again joined the Board as Vice President in 2010. Once again, he had the power and opportunity to do something about this pedophile coach. From 2007 until Rick Curl was arrested in 2012, however, Mr. Berkoff once again proved that he could not care less about me or the fact that Rick Curl presented a risk to minor swimmers. Mr. Berkoff did not once reach out to me to express sympathy or offer his assistance in any way. Like all of the others, he “buried his head in the sand” and looked out only for his own best interests. Mr. Berkoff is a disgrace in my eyes.
Whether or not you believe Mr. Berkoff, I am sure that John Leonard knew about what Rick Curl did to me way back then. According to Mr. Berkoff, everyone knew. And yet, under Mr. Leonard’s leadership, ASCA named Rick Curl as Coach of the Year in 1994. Curl was effectively rewarded for the insidious way that that he treated me when I was just a child.
Knowledge of Rick Curl went straight to the top of USA Swimming. After over two decades of remaining silent, Mark Schubert testified that he told current Executive Director Chuck Wielgus on at least three occasions starting in 2007 about Rick Curl and Ms. Currin. Mr. Wielgus himself testified that 2010 that he had recently been made aware of a “settlement” between Curl and one of his swimmers, presumably me. Once again, nothing was done as Mr. Wielgus took no action. In the spring of 2011, I came forward and, with the assistance of an attorney, presented a claim against Rick Curl with USA Swimming. We provided USA Swimming with a copy of the settlement agreement signed by Curl which constituted an admission of his guilt. Still nothing was done. In July of 2012, Curl was sitting prominently and generally treated as royalty during the United States Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Incensed, I hired attorney Robert Allard to present another claim in July of 2012. Only after that time, when Mr. Allard basically held a gun to its head, did USA Swimming take any action. By then, it was far too late.
In sum, I have no confidence whatsoever that USA Swimming will protect swimmers from sex abuse. Its leaders have been given ample opportunity to prove to the country that they are able to put the interests of swimmers ahead of their own. They have failed and have failed in the worst of ways. They have shown their true colors. It is time for a change. It is time to hold those who knew and did nothing accountable. And that time is now. If USA Swimming continues to demonstrate that it cannot regulate itself, then I urge Congressional intervention. USA Swimming is a creation of Congress and therefore Congress needs to intervene and address this crisis. Enough is enough. I am living proof that we have a deep rooted problem in the amateur sport of swimming that requires drastic and immediate action.