The lifetime ban handed down to former Fordham and Harvard swim coach Joe Bernal two days ago is just the latest in what is becoming a flurry of sexual abuse scandals in the swim world.
There have been several prominent coaches in USA Swimming, including Dick Shoulberg and Rick Curl, who have been accused of crimes and violations of the Code of Conduct the last several years.
Of course, it isn’t just swim coaches who have been getting caught up in morals and hazing accusations over the last several years. Nearly a dozen individuals with links to the American field hockey community have been arrested or jailed over the last decade, including players, coaches, a pair of U.S. internationals, and even a field hockey writer.
And the legal dragnet has even caught up with the former CEO of the Amateur Athletic Union, which is supposed to be running amateur sports safely.
I’ll give credit, however, to what USA Swimming has been doing over the last few years. They have taken to publishing a list of individuals banned by the organization permanently. And if you take a look at the individuals, you’ll notice that roughly 3/4 of these bans were imposed in 2010 or later.
There are, of course, a couple of ways to look at this. First of all, you could surmise that USA Swimming didn’t do the best job of policing conduct before 2010.
But I think USA Swimming has found it much easier to collect evidence sufficient to ban bad actors. As we have opined here, it has gotten significantly easier to collect evidence to convict teachers engaging in inappropriate relationships; police and prosecutors can simply subpoena phone and text records and look for patterns. Court records have shown that some relationships, in full song, can yield upwards of hundreds of texts between the perpetrator and his/her victims.
All of that masks the fact that people were hurt by Joe Bernal’s actions. Given that, it is just that he now has a digital Zane on his record.