Abington Swim-Legend Turned Whistleblower Takes Stand Against Sexual Abuse

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Image via Harvard Varsity.
David Berkoff was an Olympic gold medalist known for his "Berkoff blast-off."

The now disgraced Harvard University and Olympic swim coach Joe Bernal — also known as Hugo Bernard Calderon — has reportedly passed away. In an intricate saga on Salon.com examining sexual abuse scandals in the swimming world, it appears that some speculate he may have faked his own death. However, as Irvin Muchnick writes, those theories seem baseless.  

Bernal was under investigation for sexual misconduct days after he was named to the American swimming Coaches Hall of Fame in September 2015. He fled to Colombia with his “Hugo Calderon” passport and stayed there for 13 months, according to Muchnick.  

An Abington mentee of Bernal/Calderon — David Bekoff — became one of the first athletes to speak out against sexual abuse in the swimming world.  Now a lawyer in Montana, Olympic gold medalist Berkoff was a whistleblower in his early days; however, some anti-abuse activists criticize him as an apologist.  

However, his contributions to the anti-abuse cause are not to go unnoticed.  

Berkoff was on the USA Swimming board when he circulated a list of coaches who had credible accusations of abuse but were not banned.

He also testified at a former swimmer Sydney Mizelle’s trial. Mizelle was suing USA Swimming for damages over sexual abuse from her former coach, Nathan Weddle.  

Read more about the convoluted tale of Joe Bernal/Hugo Bernard Calderon, the elusive behavior, and how Abington’s David Bekoff waded into the controversy at Salon.com.  

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