by Irvin Muchnick
It’s probably not the happiest of holiday seasons for Linck Bergen, who last week was coldly dismissed by the Nike-sponsored Tualatin Hills Swim Club in Oregon, where he had been on the staff for 15 years, 10 of them as head coach. Portland’s Oregonian has what little is known about this so far: http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/index.ssf/2014/12/linck_bergen_removed_as_coach.html.
The Tualatin Hills Thunderbolts invited the most wide-ranging speculation when they offered no explanation for the move, bathing their secrecy in privacy concerns. This is equal parts unfair to Linck Bergen and to those trying to clean up youth coach sexual abuse and cover-up in USA Swimming and other national amateur sports entities.
Our Pacific Northwest sources say there is no evidence that Bergen got sacked because of allegations of sexual misconduct. According to them, Bergen has had ongoing health problems, which kept him away from practices and meets for extended periods, until the issue of his leadership and control came to a head.
(Bergen’s Tualatin Hills email address is no longer good. The Thunderbolts’ board president, Jay Epperson, did not respond to our multiple inquiries, including one forwarded from another club official.)
What makes personnel change by smoke signal worse here, of course, is that Bergen’s father, Paul Bergen, an inductee of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, is one of the most notorious accused molesters in the sport’s foul history. At https://concussioninc.net/?p=8404, we have complete links to our coverage of Paul Bergen, including the detailed and unrefuted abuse allegations against him by Cincinnati native swimmers Deena Deardurff Schmidt (a 1972 Olympic gold medalist) and Melissa Halmi. We believe Deardurff Schmidt and Halmi, in part because their accounts ring true internally and in part because additional anecdotes trail Bergen from other coaching stops. Eventually, he left the profession and landed on USA Swimming’s “flagged” list – a set of secret notes kept by the organization’s disgraced cover-up CEO, Chuck Wielgus, for managing future involvement of figures who are not officially banned.
For 15 years, coinciding with Linck Bergen’s tenure,Tualatin Hills held a junior international swim meet every December that was named in honor of Paul Bergen. The name was changed just last year, after Concussion Inc.’s reports embarrassed the Thunderbolts into a tardy, transparently calculated, sloppily explained “rebranding” of the event.
Who knows what happened with Linck Bergen? One highly plausible theory is that the Thunderbolts wanted to separate Linck from the program but also give the deed enough space so as not to have the appearance of linkage with correction of their Paul Bergen shame.
Something similar happened after we were the first to report on the rape allegations against now-banned coach Greg Winslow at the Sun Devil Aquatics club program on the Arizona State University campus (who later would be fired by the University of Utah). ASU, whose former head swimming coach Mike Chasson owned Sun Devil Aquatics, kicked the club off campus. Chasson’s wife, Phoenix lawyer Jill Johnson Chasson, also resigned as chair of USA Swimming’s National Board of Review.
Tualatin Hills Swim Club’s reason for dismissing Linck Bergen should not be allowed to dangle. The Thunderbolts, Oregon Swimming, and USA Swimming owe America’s swimming families a full accounting of how this event relates (or not) to the national swimming abuse scandals.