The Associated Press SEATTLE (AP) — World champion swimmer Ariana Kukors has accused a U.S. Olympic team coach of sexually abusing her starting when she was 16, the latest misconduct allegations against those charged with caring for young athletes.
It’s another scandal for the U.S. governing body of swimming and for the sports world, which was rocked by a litany of sexual misconduct by former USA Gymnastics sports doctor Larry Nassar. For its part, USA Swimming revealed in 2010 that sex abuse allegations were mostly to blame for lifetime bans of 46 members and said it set up training and enhanced screening for all coaches, officials and volunteers.
That same year, coach Sean Hutchison faced an investigation over his ties to Kukors, but it was closed with no misconduct found. USA Swimming said Thursday that it learned of the underage abuse allegations this week.
Kukors, now 28, told authorities that Hutchison took thousands of sexually explicit photographs of her, according to a search warrant document filed by a federal agent.
She told officers that he kissed and touched her when she was 16 and engaged in sexual activity with her when she was 17 at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Victoria, British Columbia, the document said.
Hutchison denies abusing Kukors and has not been charged with a crime. U.S. and local authorities seized electronic devices from his Seattle apartment this week that they say may contain evidence, the Seattle PI reported.
Kukors, the 2009 world champion in the 200-meter individual medley who placed fifth in that event in the 2012 Olympics, accused Hutchison of “grooming” her for sexual abuse when she was 13 and he was her coach at a Seattle-area swim club.
“I never thought I would share my story because I was able to leave a horrible monster and build a life I could have never imagined for myself,” she said in a statement released through her attorneys Wednesday. “But in time, I’ve realized that stories like my own are too important to go unwritten.”
Hutchison, 46, who was an assistant coach on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, said the two were in a relationship after the 2012 Olympics and that she lived in his Seattle home for more than a year.
“At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual,” he said in a statement released by his attorney. “I absolutely deny having any sexual or romantic relationship with her before she was old enough to legally make those decisions for herself. Prior to that time, I did nothing to ‘groom’ her.”
The investigation comes amid scrutiny over the supervision of people who work with young athletes. Nassar was recently sentenced to decades in prison in a case that led to a reckoning for the gymnastics governing body, with top executives resigning and the entire board of directors planning to step down as requested by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Kukors’ attorney in California, Robert Allard, compared his client’s case to the one against Nassar.
“Much like the USOC knew about Larry Nassar years before his arrest and did nothing, USA Swimming had notice in 2010 that Sean Hutchison was involved in an inappropriate coach-athlete relationship with Ariana and took no actions to protect her or other swimmers,” he said in a statement.
Mike Saltzstein, a former vice president of USA Swimming who previously complained about the organization’s handling of sexual abuse cases, questioned the thoroughness of the 2010 investigation.Speech