The USA Swimming sexual abuse scandal has escalated further, as allegations about another respected coach prompted a new investigation.
Rick Curl, founder of one of the nation’s largest swim clubs is facing criminal charges for alleged sexual misconduct involving a former swimmer, Kelley Currin. He has accepted a provisional suspension by USA Swimming and a full hearing before USA Swimming’s board of review is set for Sept. 19, said Jamie Fabos Olsen, USA Swimming communications director. Ultimately Curl could face a lifetime ban.
Currin (maiden name Davies), said Curl had sexual relations with her for four years beginning in 1983. She was 13, he was 33.
Now 62, Curl is perhaps the most high profile coach to be investigated thus far. He was the 1994 American Swimming Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and has also served as a member of the U.S. national team coaching staff. He coached swimmer Tom Dolan to three medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. In 1978 he founded the Curl-Burke Swim Club. Today the club has about 15 locations throughout the greater Washington D.C area. According to the club Website, 20 swimmers competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb. Curl reportedly attended on a coaching credential.
Currin, now 43, claims the relationship started with a kiss on the lips. It happened in the hallways of Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Md., where the swim club leased the pool.
“By the time I was 14, in my little 14-year-old brain, it was very much a love affair,” she told the Washington Post. “I loved him. ... Any problem I had, he would fix it.”
Once the relationship became sexual, intercourse occurred on nearly every road trip, and at Curl’s house, said Currin. It also happened at her parents’ house while they were home, she said. The family home was about 30 minutes from Georgetown Prep, so Curl would drive her to early morning practices on occasion. Her parents offered him a bedroom to save him the drive.
Currin’s parents, Gerald and Pamela Davies, learned of the alleged relationship in 1987, when they read her diary soon before she left for the University of Texas on a swimming scholarship, she said. They confronted Curl, but legal counsel discouraged them from pursuing criminal action.
Currin said that Curl stopped communicating with her after her parents found out. She continued swimming and won the gold medal in the 200 fly at the 1987 Pan Pacific Championships. But a year later she finished seventh in the event at the U.S. Olympic trials. After failing to qualify, Currin said she entered an eating disorder treatment program in Texas. After she was released, her family negotiated a settlement with Curl.
In 1989, both parties signed a non-disclosure agreement. Curl, now 62, agreed to compensate the family $150,000 over 11 years for the “pain and suffering experienced by her” and because he recognized possible damage to his “reputation and customer relations.” Currin agreed not to press charges or speak publicly about it.
“I was stifled for 23 years from saying anything because I signed a piece of paper when I was 19,” Currin told the Washington Post. “Now, I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’m done being quiet about it. ... It was a crime, what happened.”
She returned to swimming with the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club, and Bill Bullough, club founder, confirmed to the Washington Post that Currin did reveal that she had been involved in a relationship with Curl. He said he did not disclose anything at the time because Currin was trying to put the incident behind her and move on.
Curl has declined to comment on the matter, according to a number of media reports. A statement on the swim club Website announced that Curl resigned from his position as president of Curl Burke Swim Club.
It also appears that the club has taken steps to remove Curl’s name from the brand. A local media outlet reported that it had obtained an email sent to club parents that stated that that club would now be known formally by its nickname: CUBU.
USA Swimming has initiated a National Board of Review proceeding regarding Currin’s accusations. The organization has requested an expedited hearing and invited Currin to testify, said Fabos Olsen.
Currin’s allegations follow a handful of lawsuits filed in recent years alleging sexual abuse by USA Swimming coaches. In response, USA Swimming has instituted an awareness program, mandatory background checks and other safeguards, including requiring that its members report any inappropriate activity.
However, some question whether these measures are addressing the problem.
“Overall, sex abuse has plagued this organization for decades and will continue to plague it for decades to come unless this leadership group is removed,” said Currin’s attorney, Robert Allard, with Corsiglia McMahon & Allard LLP, in San Jose, Calif. “USA Swimming’s leaders have repeatedly demonstrated that they are utterly incapable of taking affirmative action until pressured to do so by the media and/or victim advocates. … This is the epitome of the exploitation of athletes, culminating in the sexual molestation of minor swimmers to which a blind eye is perpetually turned.”