Thursday, July 26, 2012

Still So Far To Go

Yesterday at practice, a swimmer remarked that he wasn't surprised to read the story that surfaced concerning Rick Curl and an emergency USA Swimming hearing regarding whether he sexually molested a swimmer under his charge almost thirty years ago, then got her to sign away any right to talk about it for money. "Seems like I read something similar every week". Looking at the situation pessimistically, that's a sad state of affairs for swimming. However, it's undeniably a positive that this issue is stepping out of the shadows, no matter how painful it is. The response, however, indicates we still have very far to go. 


One of the most revealing passages in the Washington Post article details who Kelly Currin told. One person included Bill Bullough, the founder of Rockville Montgomery Swim Club. A passage below:


'“We provided her an opportunity to get back and swim and support her,” Bullough said Saturday. “We did hear [about a sexual relationship] from her. It was none of our business. She wasn’t all that comfortable [talking about it]. It was a big step for her to say, ‘I’d like to swim, but I can’t go back to that guy.’ "

Currin reportedly also told a teammate, the late Richard Quick, and claims that Pete Morgan, currently at Curl Burke, had direct knowledge of the relationship. It's clear from Bullough's response that he acted decidedly "old school" in this situation. USA Swimming's mandatory education packet for coaches makes it pretty clear that it's not acceptable to say "it's none of our business" anymore when it comes to allegations of abuse. 

Curl-Burke swim club issued a fairly swift statement in response. The response is just as important for what it says as what it does not say. Let's take out a few pieces:

"Pete Morgan will assume the role of Head Coach of the Curl Burke Swim Club"

That's the same Pete Morgan who Currin claims knew of the relationship and did nothing, although Morgan denies that. Is Curl-Burke satisfied that Morgan did not know? If the USA Swimming panel does discover that the allegations are true, will Curl-Burke revisit this decision?

The rest of the statement includes generalities about Curl-Burke coaches taking part in education as part of both the national USA Swimming program and an LSC educational course. It concludes with:

"This article is painful  for our Club and Rick Curl personally"

Missing from this statement is Mrs. Currin, although I guess to say that just the "article" was painful for her would be a grave understatement. As the day pressed on, Currin felt like she had to elaborate. She released a statement in the late afternoon. She stated pretty strongly that she was upset with USA Swimming's handling of the case. She accused USA Swimming of lying about when they knew about the report.

Finally, this morning, USA Swimming responded. It appears membership can still count on them to double down on stupid. In it, they admit that their third party investigator has had the confidentiality agreement since April. Somehow USA Swimming would like you to believe that without seeing the agreement or really knowing what was in it, they simultaneously advised Currin to seek legal counsel before sending it to them, and somehow that legal counsel advised her not to forward it on. 

On the one hand, I can't believe that in the wake of a national and unavoidable story (Penn State), USA Swimming and Curl-Burke Swim Club could still come off so tone deaf on this issue. Why, if as so many people have pointed out, you can't be compelled to keep something illegal confidential, could so many people fail to point this out to the victim? Why do statements from both USA Swimming and Curl-Burke show far more interest in protecting themselves than victims of sexual abuse?

The answer lies in the imbalance that remains. When I spoke with Chuck Wielgus in December, he wanted desperately to discuss what he considered his legacy as Executive Director of USA Swimming. He felt he had brought the sport from small time to big time. I could see it from afar at Olympic Trials. He looked like a proud papa watching Omaha unfold. After all, few would have predicted in the mid 90s that trials would fill a big arena. A body blow similar to the one the NCAA delivered to Penn State would destroy most, if not all, of that legacy.

In Curl-Burke's case, they are one of the most powerful and influential clubs in America. When I said I was writing this blog, a friend urged me not too. "Don't want any more recruits from Curl-Burke?" is what he said. While that statement may seem ludicrous, the sentiment is real. There is real fear in the swimming community to speak out at times like these, and that is how I know we still have so far to go. There is also indifference. To date, no major current athlete or coach has spoken out on this issue, and I doubt any will at the Olympic games. There will even be those who suggest that writing about this with the Olympics approaching is inappropriate, as if any competition is more important. I will know we've made it as a sport when a critical mass of powerful people in swimming shift their belief from "none of my business" to being advocates for the health and well-being of everyone involved. 

17 comments:

  1. If anyone comes across someone saying we shouldn't be talking about this stuff so close to the Olympics, please send it along. I haven't flipped out in a while, would be a good reason to.

    If anything, bringing this stuff to light so close to the Olympics is the best possible thing we could do. Light, disinfectant, blah blah.

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  2. What about the parents and the lawyer who knew first hand about the situation and financially profited? I don't agree at all with Rick Curl and I hope he is never allowed to be around a minor again, but the parents should be just as accountable as you claim Pete Morgan should be. That is another sick spin on this horrific situation. Who takes 150K hush money when their own child was abused? I would have neutered the man if it was my daughter.

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    1. I've read so many statements that say the parents should be held accountable. Thirty years ago was a different world where information was very limited - no internet - they took the advice of their attorney - I'm sure they did the best they could do and thought what they were doing was in the best interest of their daughter.

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    2. The attorneys make me want to puke.

      Allard profits off of the sex abuse victims. Allard does not want to waste his time helping other victims - there is not enough money to be made in other cases.

      Allard is no better than the people he bashes at USA Swimming - it's all about the money.

      In order to stop abuse of all kinds, the culture needs to change. Retaliation needs to stop. People need to be held accountable. Every club and LSC need to have links on their sites to educate people about their rights, the laws of the corporation, the process to file complaints and with what organization to file complaints.

      I just heard of a club who mandates all swimmers belonging to a single family leave the club if one of the swimmers chooses to swim with a different club. These clubs want to CONTROL and threaten and it's illegal.

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  3. Chris, Bravo! You are truly outstanding and keep up the great work!

    Anonymous, the 2nd half of your post was on the money but the stuff about Allard seems off base to me. I'm not a big fan of attorneys and have never met Allard in person, but my perception of him is much different than yours'.

    If Allard was looking to really profit off the victims, he would be like most lawyers and encourage all of his clients to settle and move on to the next lawsuit. It appears to me that this man has spent a lot of his own time and money to singlehandedly fight a very powerful and corrupt organization that uses scortched earth legal tactics. And to my knowledge he’s not a swimmer nor does he have a family member involved in the sport.

    I’ve seen both sides of this nasty conflict and the USA Swimming leadership and legal counsel has been nothing short of manipulative and very deceitful. They have hidden, shredded and redacted documents, they have aggressively attacked the actual sexual molestation victims and critics of their policies, they have racked up 10s of thousands of dollars for fines (at membership's expense) because of attorney misconduct and have lied to the membership and manipulated the media covering these stories.

    If I’m Allard or any other attorney and have been met with the lack of cooperation and unethical tactics from USA Swimming’s legal counsel, the gloves are off when dealing with swimming’s legal counsel. I love swimming, I hate this situation, but Allard isn't the one to blame.

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  4. The real problem is that unsuspecting individuals put their trust in the attorneys hands.

    When I learned that the presiding officer in my hearing "published a handbook disseminated by USA Swimming concerning the formation and operation of nonprofit corporations for youth activities", I was relieved assuming he knew corporate law and the matter would be resolved, but instead he forwarded deceiving, misleading and false information to USA Swimming.

    More google searches revealed connections and it became very apparent he was protecting his friends and himself.

    I finally had a rehearing on July 11, 2012 (15 months after the first hearing) where the same attorney acted more like a defense attorney and not a hearing officer. His tactic was to suppress and confuse. The hearing started at 8pm and and he wanted to go home. Several individuals who should have been called as respondents were not notified. I'm still waiting for the written decision that is suppose to come within 14 days.

    All of the documents I submitted at the first hearing were missing from the file. The binders the review members received were missing pages and had poor quality copies (non legible).

    I don't know where the corruption starts and stops, but I contacted Bruce Stratton at the end of 2011 and he got the ball rolling again.

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    1. I just received the written notice from the attorney and once again it's full of false and misleading information.

      Oh wait a minute - he was a member of the Board of Directors of Southern California Swimming from 1981 to 2005, and has served as General Chair and Treasurer. Nationally, he was a member of the Counselors Committee for USA Swimming from 1985 to 2005 and was the Committee Chair from 1994 to 2005. He is also an announcer for USC Swimming and Pac 10 Conference Champs.

      I didn't expect any other outcome. It was a necessary step before the matter can go to the NBR. The problem is that the NBR could have intervened 20 months ago and chose not to - so really what's the point?

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    2. Duh - he was the Chairman of the NBR - of course the current NBR is going to believe him over some parent.

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  5. The NBR is probably as corrupt at the local organization. In my case it was far more corrupt. Who you are friends with is all that matters. Friends protect friends, no matter what illegal, immoral, or unethical things those friends do. Within the organization there is no such thing as an impartial hearing panel.

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  6. Currin's parents found out in 1987 they settled in 1989. The hearing officer in this present case was legal council for USA Swimming starting in 1985 through 2005. It seems like the same people keep coming out of the woodwork in order to silence those who dare speak up.

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  7. Bob Allards arms are open to those who have been sexually abused and I'm glad they have him to turn to. The ABC 20/20 article dated 04/04/2010 - quoted Mr. Allard as saying "a simple phone call.....would have revealed so much....".

    My simple phone call got my daughters swim membership terminated which has turned into two years of hell. Mr. Allard was unwilling to help my daughter because she was not sexually abused. His advice - good luck - don't stop fighting.

    I don't know why these people don't understand (or maybe they do) that oppression at the club level is the perfect environment for illegal, unethical, and immoral conduct to occur.

    Splash was also very picky about what they chose to post when it came to California.

    I suppose it's easier to attack those in Colorado than to create waves in your own State.

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    1. Please stop posting here ... I used to enjoy reading this blog, until you kept posting over and over again. Every time Chris brings up a meaningful issue, you hijack the forum for your own use. I'm sorry that your children did not have a positive experience with their swim club in Southern California. Luckily, there are HUNDREDS to choose from in your area. Go check another one out, sometimes it's just not a good fit and both parties need to move on. I'm sorry this sounds harsh, but your constant complaining takes away from the real issue at hand which Chris has brought up. This is not the first time you have ranted on Chris blog and I'm sure it won't be the last.

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    2. I've read many comments attacking Currin's parents for settling. It's unfair to criticize these people - people are quick to pass judgement. I was just trying to show that some attorneys are present under false pretense. It's taken me two years to realize it. Who knows what the Currin's were told.

      My protests involve several officers of the LSC - and the process should have taken a couple of months, but instead it's taken two years. Why?

      I apologize if my comments irritate you, but moving on and ignoring unethical behavior is kind of the issue at hand.

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  8. Anon, what were we picky about posting? Although, Mr. Allard and company are focused on the sexual abuse, we have fought against not only that cause, but many other issues of corruption in USA Swimming. The sexual abuse is one part of it. The direction of our sport, ridiculous salaries and sheer incompentence of our sport is also a big part. I don't know if your complaining about the BOR process, but that is a sham. Please email us at usswimnscandal@yahoo.com. We are preparing to relaunch the www.usswimnscandal.com website and are updating our email database with 10s of thousands of swimming member emails that we recently obtained.

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    1. Sorry - can't respond.

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  9. http://www.npr.org/2012/08/06/158199112/sex-abuse-haunts-former-olympic-swim-hopeful

    Great interview with Currin. To me, a key quote came around the 20 minute mark.

    “It breaks my heart because there are several of those coaches that completely knew. My parents, in fact, told one of them face to face that this had happened to me, and this guy still coaches for him. It breaks my heart because he was one of my very first coaches at Curl and I loved him… he’s still there and he ended up marrying one of his swimmers.”

    I think the secrecy, and covering for friends, etc is generational. A time when things were kept quiet, and COULD be thanks to no internet. Hopefully as these people retire and age-out, this dies with them.

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  10. This seems as good of a place to put this as any (as one of the many stories of abuse in swimming). I have been hounding Susan Woessner for the past year or more about a program for parents to be able to recognize and stop abuse.

    I took a course as an official that really was pretty helpful and they've expanded that for parents now. It is on the Safe Sport section of usaswimming.

    Including the webinars she's done with stop it now, they really are doing a pretty good job.

    Now for the disappointing part of this story, my daughter's LSC, Pacific Swimming, hasn't in any way publicized this effort. I had to find it on my own.

    Hopefully, Pacific Swimming reads these blogs like I believe Susan does and gets its act together and starts publicizing the information that can help curtail abuse in swimming.

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