Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Will the real David Berkoff please stand up?

Work-wise and family-wise I have been underwater. The timing of such distractions has been terrible and unfortunately I have been missing in action as a swim blogger.

In the past week a lot has happened: Kelly Currin's statement has completely changed the Zeitgeist in regards to child protection. The Washington Post editorial board has called for a Senate investigation into USA Swimming, Coach Bill Jewell is under investigation thereby validating Coach Dia Rianda's credibility and executives at USA Swimming are going on the record in open letters and interviews to "set the record straight."

David Berkoff is one of these executives and he just delivered a contradictory statement to his home town paper, the Missoula Independent, that is so outrageous that I have to publish what he said and compare it to what what he has written previously and has testified to under oath.

In his home town paper David Berkoff is quoted as saying

From the Missoula Independent:
[David Berkof] 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. 

Mr. Berkoff is a lawyer and the idea that he must have a “victim” come forth to report a potential crime simply does not wash especially if it is a crime against a minor. Berkof's rhetoric is "smoke and mirrors. " This “victim-only” rule is an “old wives tale” that both Berkoff and Chuck Wielgus keep pushing and have been trying to pass off as a fact for far too long. Hence, it is time for them to go.

Though it is inconvenient to accuse an innocent person of abuse, it is far worse to allow a child to be abused because you are reluctant to speak out. The suspicion of a crime can be reported anonymously. Let the professionals based upon the anonymous report determine what happens next.

Berkoff wrote,
"... 22 years ago—when I was a 24 year old swimmer—I confronted a problem that I saw as unjust. I formed the first abuse subcommittee in 1991 and the committee’s work formed the basis for the Code of Conduct. I quit the Board for several reasons in 1992. ..."
I read the transcript of a video deposition Berkoff gave on January 26th of 2012 - Berkoff was  NOT on a “Sex Abuse Sub-Committee in 1991 nor was he a USA Swimming board member during 1991. He admitted as such in his video deposition. What he was doing during that period of time was training for the Olympics. [Page 178 of said deposition.]

Though Berkoff states emphatically that he “formed the first [sex] "abuse sub-committee" in 1991,” a statement he mentioned in emails to Jeff Chida, Mike Saltzstein [See the image above] he testified under oath of doing NO such thing.

Moreover, there are NO official committee meeting minutes or otherwise that can be presented to prove anything he says is true. Nothing, and it appears to be all lies and after going through his deposition I could only find this "shred" of an explanation that he gave regarding the formation of a “Sex Abuse Committee”:

Question: Whose idea was it to form this subcommittee?

David Berkoff: I don't know if it was mine or whether somebody just said, hey, who is interested in doing this. I don't recall. [Page 178] 

In January of this last year Berkoff had no idea if he formed a “abuse sub-committee” but in a rebuttal letter to this blog he produced a firm date, which was not only incorrect but he takes credit for being the originator. Repeat, under oath he says that he had NO idea if he formed this “abuse sub-committee” at all.

Question: [When Asked about a letter to Ken Stopkotte and Mike Saltzstein]  Quote, As you all know, it took seven years from the date we formed an abuse subcommittee in 1992, end quote. 

When you say "we," who were you referring to when you wrote this in July of 2010?

David Berkoff: Yeah. Probably U.S.A. Swimming in general.

Question:  And why did you use the words "abuse subcommittee"?

David Berkoff: I really didn't know what else to call it. It wasn't a formal committee. All I know is it was a group of us who I recall meeting once, maybe twice discussing these issues in a very frank and open manner. And what I recall of it I've testified to before, and the only person I can recall actually being there was John Leonard [...]

Question:  Was the topic of implementing a formal Code of Conduct discussed during this meeting?

David Berkoff:  I don't know if there was actually some discussion of a formal Code of Conduct. I do believe that we did discuss the issue of whether or not we should have some kind of formal statement on abuse of swimmers.

What stands out the most for me is the “...Formal Code of Conduct...” that Berkoff so brazenly take credits for in his rebuttal. What Berkoff said in a  rebuttal in a note he sent to this blog is that...
“...the committee’s work formed the basis for the Code of Conduct...”
...But that completely conflicts with what he answered in his deposition above. When asked directly about this “formal code of conduct” he make it clear that it may have never been discussed.

After reading his emails and his quotes to the press, I don’t believe him. I think he is lying and his accomplishments within USA Swimming seem to be a "multiple choice option".  When under oath he seems non-committal, but when running for office or defending his positions he pulls out the red,white & blue colors of the USA Swimming logo and seems self-assured and confident.

His quotes to the Independent appear to me to be scripted and conflict with everything he said under oath and emails to associates.

Yes, the Senate should look into USA Swimming and focus their attention on three members: Chuck Wielgus, David Berkoff and John Leonard.


Anonymous said...

This disappoints me. I remember reading all of that, his comments here (I'm pretty sure), attempts at forming some kind of committee back then, how angry he was, how he wanted to fix things but was powerless. (I'm paraphrasing what I recall reading in comments and possible newspaper articles, mind you, but I'm sure any of this can be easily verified.)

I was on his email list in which he sent out drafts written in legalese that were really going to clean up the sport.

I should have known it'd all be hot air.

Anonymous said...


It is incredulous to me that you hold yourself out as an advocate for child sex abuse prevention and organizational reform and use phrases such as 'date rape' in such a cavalier manner to describe a situation, which I assure you, is in no way comparable to the actual experience of a rape victim.

Tony Austin said...

Yes, I do consider myself an advocate for child abuse prevention and organizational reform.

Perhaps you find it incredulous how I carry myself or "hold myself out" as an advocate but those at USA Swimming find me pretty damn credible and so do the the victims who have written me. I (I have emails from both parties)

If I offended any date rape victims with my hyperbole I certainly apologize but my misuse of a phrase that denotes a serious societal problem still doesn't remove nor dismiss my accomplishments in the slightest.

I will edit out that phrase and rephrase with an even more hyperbolic one.

Tony Austin said...

Me too. I endorsed him. I felt "betrayed and suddenly felt that the membership was now betrothed to a pig" when he got in and said everything was perfect.

Anonymous said...

You and your "team" ie Allard, Irv et al are a bunch of nuts

Tony Austin said...

An insult from "Team-Curl?"

Anonymous said...

Dont let Team Curl slow you down, Tony. Thank goodness you, Allard and Irv found each other and have been able to work as a team to get the old guard out of USA Swimming! Your combined efforts will make a difference. I applaud you all. Change is inevitable- thank you for all you do for the sport, Tony!

Tony Austin said...

Thank you for the note. Very kind words.

I myself feel don't feel like I am part of a team but rather I feel more like a part of a consortium of readers and insiders who just want USA Swimming to get better.

Again thank you.