by Tim Joyce
Avoiding the facts. Insulting anyone of meager intelligence. That is the essence of the response to the Rick Curl sentence from that hermetically sealed bubble of plausible deniability – otherwise known as USA Swimming headquarters in Colorado Springs.
In an “open letter” sadly and typically devoid of any contrition, CEO Chuck Wielgus continued to pull a Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. Wielgus doubled down on USA Swimming’s stance that they did all they could, in as swift a fashion as they could, in the tragic story of Kelley Currin.
Wielgus steadfastly maintained, in full Nixonian wrapping, the stance that it is the media who are overstating USA Swimming’s culpability. One has to wonder — is it because there’s just no turning back after spinning such a web of obfuscation?
“Contrary to some media reports, USA Swimming first learned of Ms. [Kelley] Currin’s name in April of 2011,” Wielgus wrote. “I also did not have any firsthand knowledge of her identity until that time. Upon receiving firsthand information of her name, we then initiated an investigation to locate Ms. Currin which eventually led to our having direct contact with Ms. Currin in April of 2012.”
Wielgus referred to the assertion, by myself and others who have looked into the entire USA Swimming scandal(s), that he had to have been aware of the Rick Curl situation since 2010. Here is a portion of a deposition given by Wielgus in May of 2010:
Q Did you ever get any information about him (Rick Curl) having an inappropriate sexual contact with one of his swimmers?
A I have never received any information about that.
Q Is there a file on Rick Curl?
A Not — not that I’m — not that I’m aware of.
Q Are you aware of any settlement that Rick Curl made with his alleged victim?
A I have — I have heard, just within the past three to four weeks, that there was some sort of a settlement between Rick Curl and a victim or a victim’s family. And that’s the first I heard of that.
Q Do you know why he moved to Australia?
A I don’t.
Q Do you know if he moved to avoid criminal prosecution?
A I’ll give you the same answer I gave to the last question.
Q Okay. And you said you learned in the last three to four weeks about some kind of settlement?
A I shouldn’t say I learned. I heard a rumor. I — I would equate learning as knowing for sure, as opposed to —
Q Heard a rumor?
A — hearing something. Right, heard a rumor.
Q Who did you hear the rumor from?
A That’s a good question. I don’t recall who I heard the rumor from, but it — I don’t recall who I heard the rumor from. I can’t say.
Q But the rumor was just to the extent that he paid — he paid a settlement himself, personally? Is that what the rumor was?
A No, no. I just — I — I think I heard it in the context of somebody saying that they had seen his name on a blog or something to that effect.
Let’s be clear: Even taking Wielgus at his word that he never knew the identity nor the depth of abuse suffered by Kelley Currin until 2011, it still took USA Swimming’s investigators an entire year to locate her once she came forward? Wielgus et al. are patting themselves on the back for only taking one and not two years to find a victim?
Then again, maybe that is something to be proud of considering their track record of non-investigations (see: Burt, Sara or countless others).
Even more damning is that after admitting that he had heard of some sort of settlement between Curl and a “victim,” did it not occur to Wielgus that there should be an immediate and urgent investigation to verify any of this? After all, Rick Curl was one of the most celebrated coaches in the world.
And if holding off any negative publicity was the goal, just consider that the infamous 20/20 interview with Wielgus aired just a short time before the above referenced deposition. Wouldn’t it have made sense, if Wielgus were interested in doing the right thing, to make sure that any and all coaches accused of such heinous acts would be looked into?
Additionally, subsequent to Thursday’s sentencing of Curl to seven years in prison, famed coach Mark Schubert has admitted that he indeed informed Wielgus as early as 2007 that Currin was abused by Curl. Schubert says that Wielgus told him at that time that he could do nothing until the swimmer came forward.
Here again is that what Kelley Currin said following the sentencing hearing:
“[K]nowledge 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 in 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.”
Attorney Robert Allard, who has also represented other swimmers who, like Currin, were abused by USA Swim coaches, pointed out Saturday that USA Swimming’s contention that they first learned of her name in April 2011 “is easily refutable by the totality of evidence, starting with the a email dated July 26, 2010 from current Vice President David Berkoff. This email specifically refers to ‘Kelley Davies’ by name. This email also proves that it was common knowledge within USA Swimming that Rick Curl was ‘banging’ and ‘molesting’ Kelley going back to the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.”
Allard added: “It would be a refreshing change if those within USA Swimming would just start telling the truth and stop this nonsense. Victims of sex abuse deserve nothing less. This sport truly cannot move forward until the truth comes to light and persons hold themselves accountable. The current administration has proven over and over again that it is utterly unable to do that, which is why we are calling for the resignation of USA Swimming’s top officials. I am convinced that there is no other alternative.”