Former World Champion Swimmer Sues USA Swimming for Covering Up Alleged Sexual Abuse By Coach
Ariana Kukors-Smith, a former University of Washington swimmer and 2012 Olympian, is pursuing civil action against USA Swimming. She claims that key officials were aware of the sexual abuse she endured from her coach, Sean Hutchison, and tried to cover it up.
During a news conference on Monday, Kukors-Smith said Hutchison started grooming her at the age of 13, but the abuse began when she was 15.
“He told her she was ‘special,’ that he ‘saw things in her that no one else can see’ and that if she did what he told her, she would become an Olympic champion,” her attorney, Robert Allard, said. “Little did Ariana and her beautiful family know that this coach was starting to groom this girl so that he could get her fully under his control and basically do whatever he wanted with her. He was going to eventually sexually abuse her for as long as he wanted because he knew there was no one in the swimming world who would stop him.”
According to the lawsuit, USA Swimming became aware of the sexual abuse allegations Hutchison somewhere between 2005 and 2006 and failed to do anything about it. The lawsuit also claims that USA Swimming didn’t conduct the investigation about the accusations correctly and manipulated background check procedures to protect Hutchison.
The lawsuit names former USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, former vice president and board member Murray Stevens and former Club Development Director Pat Hogan as the officials responsible for the coverup.
“This lawsuit is about holding accountable people who should have protected a 15-year-old girl,” Kukors-Smith said. “I needed help, and there were people in positions of power who could have helped me.”
Allard said that USA Swimming officials looked the other way when Hutchison was accused of sexually abusing children because he was a great coach who produced Olympic swimmers.
The lawsuit said that USA Swimming officials “warned others that if they spoke out against Hutchison they could be liable for ‘slander’ and/or labeled an instigator of a ‘witch hunt.”
The Department of Homeland Security said that their investigation of Hutchison remains ongoing, but he hasn’t been charged with a crime. He continues to deny the allegations against him.
“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,” Hutchison said in that statement. “I deeply regret that she would make these wild allegations all these years later.”
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