The 2013 December edition of the Tualatin Hills-hosted Short Course Meters meet that is internationally attended is no longer being referred to as the “Paul Bergen International,” a brand that had become well-known in the Northwestern United States and more globally.
Instead, the meet is now being referred to as the “2013 Thunderbolt Junior International SCM Championships.”
The meet runs from Friday, December 13th, through Sunday, December 15th. Psych Sheets are available here.
The meet, which is oft-attended by international swimmers from Canada, Germany, and other countries, is run in a 25-meter course, and provides a great opportunity for local swimmers to get a really unique experience: big-time Canadian teams like Oakville Aquatics, Manta, and Island Swimming in Canada send participants, and this year the German Federation will also send a sizable roster: one that includes a pair of sub 50-second teenage sprinters, among other very good swimmers.
The name change, however, is not a coincidence or a lightly-considered change. The meet has been the center of controversy over its name, as the team’s former coach Paul Bergen, and former namesake of this meet, who has been accused by a former swimmer of being sexually abused by Bergen when she was a child.
Deena Deardurff-Schmidt, a 1972 Olympic gold medalist, accused Bergen of sexually abusing her from the time she was 11 years old. A list submitted as part of a deposition of USA Swimming vice president David Berkoff in 2012 acknowledges the accusations, though Bergen has not been banned.
USA Swimming CEO Chuck Wielgus also acknowledged the accusations in a 2010 letter he wrote to Deerdurff-Schmidt.
A spokesperson for Deardurff-Schmidt’s attorney, Bob Allard, says that USA Swimming has not communicated to them any progress since Allard emailed Chuck Wielgus in June requesting a status update on any investigation into Bergen, whether one exists or not. Allard represents Deardurff-Schmidt pro bono in her efforts to have Bergen banned, but not in any civil action.
We reached out to USA Swimming for comment on Paul Bergen today, to which spokesperson Karen Linhart responded:
USA Swimming is a membership organization and its ultimate authority is to expel from membership individuals who have violated its rules. Mr. Bergen is not currently a USA Swimming member, and has not been since 2005. According to Ms. Deardurff Schmidt’s 2010 statement and subsequent sworn testimony, she was abused by Mr. Bergen from 1968 to 1972. USA Swimming was incorporated in 1978 and began operating in its current form in 1980. USA Swimming has no authority to initiate a National Board of Review proceeding against an individual who is not currently a member (and is therefore not a risk to USA Swimming member swimmers) and when the alleged bad acts occurred before USA Swimming came into existence.
Paul Bergen’s son Linck Bergen is the current head coach of the Tualatin Hills Swim Club. The Tualatin Hills Swim Club did not respond to an email request for comment.
Ceci Christy’s synopsis of the accusations and legal proceedings against Paul Bergen is below. Below, “Mr. Bergen” refers exclusively to Paul Bergen.
In a civil action by Ms. Schmidt against USA Swimming and the Ohio LSC and other entities, Ms. Schmidt states in her deposition that Mr. Bergen sexually abused her from 1968 to 1972. The abuse began when she was only 11 and swam for Mr. Bergen at the Cincinnati Marlins swim club. According to her deposition testimony, she accepted his abuse as part of her swimming life. She represented the US in the 1972 Olympics as a 15 year old.
When she was 17 or 18 Ms. Schmidt told her parents about the sexual abuse. At this same time, she also began telling other coaches in the swimming community about the abuse. At some point in 1975 to 1977, according to her testimony, she went to the Cincinnati District Attorney’s office to file a formal complaint against Mr. Bergen for sexual abuse of a minor. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations had run under the applicable statute and she could not pursue criminal charges against him. Most current state criminal minority sexual abuse laws no longer have a statute of limitations.
Ms. Schmidt recalls telling “prominent coaches in US Swimming all through the years, in hopes that they would take an action” against Mr. Bergen for sexually abusing her. Some of the coaches she remembers telling include Richard Quick, Jim Montrella, Mike Troy, Eddie Reese, and Denny Pursley. As far as she knows, not one of the coaches she shared her abuse with took any action against Mr. Bergen.
In the late 1980’s, Ms. Schmidt also told the “director or president” of USA Swimming, Ray Essick, “in a conversation in person.” She states she specifically asked Mr. Essick, “Why they hadn’t done something to this coach that was widely known as being a sexual predator.”
In an effort to continue to have Mr. Bergen removed as a coach, she pursued filing a complaint with USA Swimming against Mr. Bergen, but was told that under the Code of Conduct being drafted in the early 1990’s in order to file a complaint she would have to be a current member athlete or have a member coach file the complaint for her. Ms. Schmidt knew that a coach would not file a complaint against an Olympic coach even while knowing her situation.
Ms. Schmidt held a press conference in March 2010 in which she publicly stated that her swim coach from 1968 to 1972 had sexually abused her for those four years. Even after acknowledging that he was aware of Ms. Schmidt’s allegations in the press conference, Chuck Wielgus in a May 2010 ESPN interview stated that he had not followed up with Ms. Schmidt regarding her allegations. In a subsequent letter to her dated April 2010, Mr. Wielgus did not confirm that USA Swimming would begin an investigation against Mr. Bergen, but instead stated “you or someone else may still wish to file a complaint against the coach” as there is no statute of limitations for filing complaints with USA Swimming. To our knowledge, USA Swimming still has not opened an investigation into Mr. Bergen’s alleged sexual abuse of Ms. Schmidt from 1968 through 1972 when she was ages 11 through 15.