WASHINGTON (AP)– USA Swimming banned coach Rick Curl for life for an improper relationship with a teenage swimmer in the 1980s.
Curl, who ran one of the nation’s largest swim clubs near Washington, D.C., and coached 1996 and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Tom Dolan, was scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the National Board of Review. But he informed the governing body he was waiving his right to challenge the case.
Curl voluntarily gave up his membership and will be added to USA Swimming’s list of banned individuals, which is published on the organization Web site.
The coach was accused of starting a relationship with a 13-year-old female swimmer in the 1980s. Kelley Davis Currin said she received a $150,000 settlement from Curl not to go to law enforcement with details of the illicit four-year relationship, but decided to come forward after the sport was rocked by a sexual abuse scandal two years ago.
Dozens of coaches have been involved in improper relationships with underage swimmers, prompting USA Swimming to launch a new safe sport program that includes mandatory training and enhanced criminal background checks for all non-athlete members. Critics say the sport still promotes a culture of secrecy and has demanded that the top leadership be replaced, including executive director Chuck Wielgus.
The Curl-Burke Swim Club had 10 sites in the Washington area, but Curl is no longer associated with it. The club issued a news release Tuesday saying it had changed its name to Nation’s Capital Swim Club, according to media reports.
Currin was notified of the decision to ban him in a letter from Susan Woessner, director of safe sport for USA Swimming.
“I want to thank you for your courage in coming forward and speaking out,” Woessner wrote. “Your willingness to share your story is now holding Rick accountable after all these years. Thank you, Kelley. I have endless gratitude.”
Currin issued a statement through her attorney, Robert Allard.
“I am happy to hear that Rick Curl may finally be starting to accept responsibility for what he did to me,” she said. “I can now only hope that USA Swimming will accept responsibility for refusing to ban Rick Curl when they had knowledge to do so.”
As part of a separate lawsuit filed Monday, Allard claims former national team coach Mark Schubert knew of the case for years and tried, without success, to get USA Swimming to investigate.
Allard called Curl “the proverbial Jerry Sandusky within this organization,” referring to the former Penn State football coach awaiting a likely life sentence for sexually abusing underage boys.
“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,” Allard said.
“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,” the attorney added. He also called for the firing of technical vice president David Berkoff, saying he “has admitted to knowing all about Mr. Curl going back to the early 1990s and failed to take effective action to protect young swimmers.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)