When USA Swimming brought its hammer down on Joe Bernal this past February, banning him permanently for life, no one could verify where exactly he was. Six months later, the Boston Globe’s Shira Springer posted a follow-up in this week’s Sunday edition.
Springer travelled to the coach’s former neighborhood. Neighbors reported that Bernal left abruptly, seemingly overnight last November. The timing of his departure coincided with a USA Swimming investigation into Bernal that would ultimately leave him banned for life.
The article is filled with quotes from former Bernal swimmer and USA Swimming board member David Berkoff. Berkoff, who swam in the Olympics and won a gold medal while training with him, said that while he stood by USA Swimming’s process, that “the allegations…are not characteristic of what I saw as an athlete”.
Berkoff went on to recollect to Springer how Bernal “helped instill a quality work ethic and ability to dream in me.” but that “obviously, there are other people who didn’t have a good relationship and experience with him and that’s unfortunate.”
During the ASCA (American Swim Coaches Association) clinic two weeks ago, we asked Executive Director John Leonard about Bernal’s presence in the association’s hall of fame. Leonard indicated that Bernal remained enshrined and commented that the board of directors has considered a new policy and is awaiting approval from its attorneys before releasing that policy.
Leonard had previously indicated to SwimSwam that the matter would be discussed during ASCA’s September meeting.
The ASCA Hall of Fame also includes Don Easterling, who was recently inducted into the North Carolina State Hall of Fame. Easterling was found negligent in the death of a student-athlete on the NC State team in 1987.
Read the full article for full context and more quotes from Berkoff and USA Swimming on the matter.