USA Swimming Calls for Emergency Hearing Over Abuse, Payoff Claims

PHOTO: USA Swimming requested an emergency hearing on July 24, 2012 after learning that one of its coaches, Rick Curl, pictured in this undated photo, had been accused of sexual molestation.
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Days before its first Olympic event, USA Swimming has requested an emergency disciplinary hearing after learning a well-known youth swim coach and current USA Swimming member, Rick Curl, had been accused of repeatedly sexually molesting a teenage swimmer and paying off her family for their silence more than 20 years ago, a USA Swimming spokesperson told ABC News.

As The Washington Post first reported, the call for the hearing came after former swimmer Kelly Currin told the newspaper that Curl had molested her on several occasions from 1983 to 1986 -- beginning when the girl was 13 years old and Curl was 33 -- and then agreed to pay her family $150,000 for emotional damages in a settlement that would also keep them from speaking publicly about the alleged wrongdoing.

"I was stifled for 23 years from saying anything because I signed a piece of paper when I was 19," Currin, now 43, told The Post. Though the alleged molestation stopped in 1986, the settlement agreement wasn't signed until 1989. "Now, I've gotten to the point in my life where I'm done being quiet about it... It was a crime, what happened."

According to court and settlement documents posted online by The Post, Curl was originally accused of four counts of battery and one count of inflicting emotional distress. The documents allege that the abuse caused Currin, who went by Kelley Davies then, to undergo years of therapy and eventually drop out of college.

The $150,000 settlement agreement notes that it does not amount to an admission of guilt on Curl's part, and Curl, now 62, declined to comment to The Post on the allegations and said he had "no idea" what USA Swimming's request for a hearing was all about. Curl did not immediately return requests for comment from ABC News.

A statement on the Curl-Burke Swim Club website said that in response to The Post's report, Curl "has decided to take a leave of absence effective immediately."

"Curl-Burke Swim Club takes very seriously the health and well-being of your children that swim for our club," the statement says. "This article is painful for our Club and Rick Curl personally."

Jamie Olsen, the USA Swimming spokesperson, told ABC News the organization had formally requested the disciplinary hearing but the legal process could take days before action is approved.

USA Swimming: ABC News Investigation Uncovers Widespread Sexual Abuse

The new allegations against yet another USA Swimming coach come more than two years after an ABC News "20/20" investigation uncovered widespread sexual abuse in the program.

At the time of that report, 36 coaches across the country had been quietly banned from the organization over the previous 10 years following allegations of inappropriate sexual relations with young swimmers.

WATCH Investigation: USA Swimming Coaches Molested, Secretly Taped Dozens of Teen Swimmers

Ken Stopkotte, named Indiana High School Boys Swimming and Diving State Coach of the year for 2009, said then the problem is pervasive and has been going on his entire 27 years in coaching.

"It's something that coaches talk about all the time," Stopkotte told ABC News.

The executive director of USA Swimming, Chuck Wielgus, acknowledged the problem, but said, "It's not nearly as serious in USA Swimming as it might be in the rest of society."

"I don't want to be the one to sit here and say 36 is not too many, one is too many, but this is not just a problem that's isolated to one sport," Wielgus said in the "20/20" report.

Nine months after the ABC News report, USA Swimming instituted a new mandatory background check program for all coaches -- an initiative in which the Curl-Burke Swim Club said it participates.

Still, nearly 30 years after he allegedly began molesting a 13-year-old girl, only now is Curl stepping away from the poolside.

ABC News' Natalie Savits contributed to this report.

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