Missoula swim coach mired in national sexual abuse case

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A dark chapter for USA Swimming appeared to come to an end May 23 when a Hall of Fame coach was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to child sexual abuse in a case that stretches back three decades. But the victim in that case, Kelley Davies Currin, who says Rick Curl first sexually abused her when she was 13 years old and continued doing so for five years during the 1980s, used last week’s sentencing to call for more changes at the national organization, including the resignation of three top officials who she says have known about Curl’s misconduct and failed to act.

“Now that justice has been levied against Rick Curl, it is time to hold accountable USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus and Vice President David Berkoff, as well as former USA Swimming National Team Director and Hall of Fame coach Mark Schubert, for their actions in helping create a culture that protects predator coaches and vilifies young victims who have the courage to come forward,” said Currin in a prepared statement.

Berkoff, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is a Missoula lawyer and head coach of the Missoula Aquatic Club.

Currin says she was motivated to file a complaint with USA Swimming after hearing testimony from victims in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case that rocked Penn State University. She said in her statement that Berkoff knew in the early 1990s about sexual relationships between coaches and underage swimmers but did nothing about it. “Like all of the others, he ‘buried his head in the sand’ and looked out only for his own best interests. Mr. Berkoff is a disgrace in my eyes,” she said.

Berkoff expresses sympathy for Currin, but denies her charges against him and defends his actions with USA Swimming. He says he has no intention of resigning from the national board nor of stepping down from his position at MAC.

“The premise for them asking me to resign my position is that they claim I knew about Kelley Davies being molested by Rick Curl. I didn’t know. I heard rumors,” says Berkoff, who adds that he’s never met either person. “There’s a huge difference. You can’t accuse someone of a crime and call for an investigation based on fourth-hand and third-hand information.”

When Berkoff served as an athlete representative on the USA Swimming board in the early 1990s, he says he was instrumental in creating a subcommittee tasked with addressing abuse. He also takes pride in helping to shape USA Swimming’s “Safe Sport” program, which now includes enhanced background checks and lifetime bans for offenders.

“There are a lot of good people who are working hard to make the sport safer, and I count myself among that group,” Berkoff says.

Lisa Keyes, MAC’s board president, says Currin’s allegations will not affect Berkoff’s position “one bit.”

“We’re aware of the people who are against Dave, but I don’t understand why they have these feelings about him when he’s been a vital piece of getting the safety measures into the sport,” she says. “It’s unfortunate.”

Keyes says MAC's board, swimmers and parents “support Dave 100 percent.”

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