PHOENIX, Arizona, September 20. A day after attorney Robert Allard lobbied accusations against USA Swimming Board of Directors member David Berkoff in a press release posted at SwimmingWorld.com regarding the Rick Curl ban, Berkoff has requested equal time on our site to respond.
Allard made the following statement yesterday:
“The decision on behalf of Mr. Curl to capitulate without a public hearing conclusively demonstrates that each and every one of the allegations that my client presented are completely 100% true and accurate. The fact that Mr. Curl has now been permanently banned from USA membership is only the first of what we hope are many steps, including imprisonment, which will be taken against him to ensure that justice is served for the heinous acts committed upon my client when she was just a child. Now, we proceed to the extent of the knowledge possessed by USA Swimming and why action was not taken earlier. Indeed, in its statement that was issued by USA Swimming on September 18, 2012 concerning the Mark Schubert lawsuit recently filed in Orange County, CA, the organization saliently failed to deny, or even address, the allegations that its organization, particularly through its Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, had known about Mr. Curl's molestation of Ms. Currin for a number of years and failed to take any action whatsoever in response thereto. Mr. Curl was the proverbial Jerry Sandusky within this organization and, similar to Penn State immediately moving to rid itself of those who knew and did nothing, we are not going to stop until the same is done at USA Swimming, starting with Mr. Wielgus and the man who has admitted to knowing all about Mr. Curl going back to the early 1990's and failed to take effective action to protect young swimmers- Vice President David Berkoff.”
Here is Berkoff's letter to our readers in response to Allard's statement:
Dear Swimming World Readers:
The following is made response to allegations made against me by California attorney Robert Allard in a national press release issued by his law firm regarding USA Swimming's banning of Rick Curl. I make this statement as an individual USA Swimming coach member, former athlete, and swim parent, and not in my capacity as a USA Swimming Board of Directors Member. My statement in no way should be interpreted as a reflection of the opinions of any Board member or of USA Swimming.
Please know that I am very pleased that Rick Curl is no longer a member of USA Swimming. No coach should ever sexually abuse an athlete, and no perpetrator of sexual abuse should ever go unpunished. Also know that I am proud of Kelly Davies-Currin for finally coming forward. I am sure that Ms. Currin has been very conflicted over the years about whether to tell her story publicly, but I hope that Ms. Currin's decision to do so will encourage other victims to do the same.
However, contrary to Mr. Allard's public accusations against me, I did not have first-hand or direct knowledge of the abuse suffered by Ms. Currin at the hands of Rick Curl. I did not swim with Ms. Currin and did not know her except in passing at swim meets. I did not swim for Rick Curl and do not know him. I never witnessed anything inappropriate between them. The truth is that like many other athletes of my generation, I heard rumors in the late 1980's to early 1990's that Rick Curl had sexually abused Ms. Currin. I heard these rumors from her college teammates, who presumably knew a lot more than I did. I did not know whether these rumors were in fact true. When I heard these rumors I was a college athlete and a peer of Ms. Currin's. Ms. Currin is approximately my age. Even today, other than what has recently been made public by Ms. Currin, the breadth of my knowledge of this case of abuse is limited to my hearing rumors twenty years ago.
Mr. Allard's statement to the world media has compared me to the high-ranking officers at Penn State who covered up Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of young boys after being informed by a direct witness to an act of rape. He contends that my hearing fourth-hand rumors twenty years ago as a young college athlete constitutes personal knowledge of abuse, and that I should be singled out and morally blamed twenty years later for Ms. Currin's pain and suffering and/or the delay in bringing Mr. Curl to justice. Such a comparative accusation is simply slanderous. It is also paradoxical that Mr. Allard has chosen to publicly assign the highest moral blame upon me when it was his client and his client's parents that entered into a confidential monetary settlement agreement that enabled Rick Curl to go unpunished for so long.
In Rick Curl's case, justice took far too long. However, when the victim and others with direct knowledge of abuse remain silent, little can happen to protect others. Those of us who heard rumors in Ms. Currin's case–like most of you–were very frustrated. As a reminder to all of you, the USAS Code of Conduct now requires mandatory reporting of abuse where “an individual has first-hand knowledge of misconduct or where specific credible information has been received from a victim or knowledgeable party.” Ms. Currin's story is proof positive that all USA Swimming members need to promptly follow the USAS reporting requirements when the requisite knowledge is present.
USA Swimming has placed nearly a dozen coaches on the banned list in the past two years as a result of the mandatory reporting and Board of Review processes. USAS is moving in the right direction to assure protection of its athletes. The system is working and will only get better with time.
Those who know me and have worked with me know that I am committed to protecting our swimmers from sexual abuse. I love this sport. I became re-involved with USA Swimming as a volunteer in 2010 after a twenty-year absence because I wanted to make a positive difference. I believe that I am doing just that. The sport of swimming and the good people involved in this sport have shaped and defined me as a person and I can assure you that I will continue to work hard to do the right thing for our athletes.
Very truly yours,