by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
The Oregonian, the state’s biggest newspaper, has picked up Concussion Inc.’s story of the rebranding of the Paul Bergen Junior International swim meet in Beaverton — which for the previous 14 years was named for one of the sport’s most despicable, and despicably covered up, child rapists.
The article is certain to fuel national probes of sexual abuse by coaches and of the athlete-endangering denial of their crimes by top officials at USA Swimming, the sport’s U.S. Olympic Committee national governing body. That fight is now joined by leading members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, by the Government Accountability Office, and by two California offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Perhaps the most significant consequence of the reckoning of Bergen is that it brings into the picture Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon’s 1st District, a committee colleague of California’s George Miller, the panel’s ranking Democrat.
Reporter Tyson Alger’s story is not terrifically well put together, and it misstates Bonamici’s role (calling her a member of the GAO rather than the House committee). But the implications are crystal-clear: swimming officials at both the local and national levels are once again fooling no one with their crazily concocted and ever-shifting timelines, and their empty protestations of an adjudication process they control and rig completely in service of their own financial and public relations interests.
The Oregonian quotes Bonamici saying, “I am deeply concerned about reports of child sexual abuse by athletic coaches, particularly in public and private swim clubs.” Here is the complete statement the Congresswoman gave us late Wednesday:
“I am deeply concerned about reports of child sexual abuse by athletic coaches, particularly in public and private swim clubs. House Education and Workforce Ranking Member George Miller has asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate and report on the prevalence of abuse among student athletes and how those abuse cases are reported, investigated, and resolved. I applaud Ranking Member Miller for his longstanding leadership on this issue and, as a member of the Education and Workforce Committee, join him in his efforts to protect our student athletes from child predators. Sports play a pivotal role in the lives of our nation’s youth, and the relationship of a trusted coach and mentor can have a tremendously positive influence in our communities. We must ensure that all our children, especially our student athletes, are able to engage in sports and extramural activities in a safe environment.”
The statements in the Portland newspaper article by Bergen, the Tualatin Hills club, and USA Swimming add up to yet another poor-taste joke on America’s parents and children. You’d think these people at least would go to the trouble of keeping their own lies straight. Today’s version is that Colorado Springs headquarters told Oregon of Deena Deardurff Schmidt’s allegations against Bergen in the summer of 2012. Not only is this news to the rest of us, but it is nonsensical with respect to both ends of the timeline. Deardurff Schmidt went public in the spring of 2010. Tualatin Hills retained the name of the Paul Bergen meet last year, after USA Swimming board president Bruce Stratton is purported to have told everyone there was a problem. The local club also published in its slick, Nike-underwritten magazine a photo of Bergen at the event and a caption about this exciting “celebrity sighting.”
There’s more, much more, to come on Bergen’s sexual offenses against underage swimmers in several states. And there’s more on other Bergens, other victims, and the shame of what has happened in amateur sports, under a 35-year-old federal statute in desperate need of overhaul.
At this point, we don’t think there is any stopping Congressman Miller, Congresswoman Bonamici, and their colleagues in the mission of draining the deep and poisonous swamp that is the USA Swimming of executive director Chuck Wielgus.