Former U.S. swimming champ Ariana Kukors accuses ex-U.S. Olympic swim team coach of sexual abuse (UPDATED)

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Ariana Kukors, see here at 14th FINA World Championships in 2011. (Getty)
Ariana Kukors, see here at 14th FINA World Championships in 2011. (Getty)

Investigators have searched the home of ex-U.S. Olympic swim team coach Sean Hutchison after 2012 Olympian and former world record holder Ariana Kukors accused him of sexually exploiting her while she was a teenager, according to multiple reports.

Kukors, now 28, accused 46-year-old Hutchison of sexually assaulting her starting when she was 16 and continuing to have sexual contact with her until she was 24, the Orange County register reports. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Kukors alleges that Hutchison took nude photos of her while she was a teenager.

Kukors told police that Hutchison assaulted her on trips and while training in Seattle and that he used his position to “groom her” for sexual assault.

“I never thought I would share my story because, in so many ways, just surviving was enough,” Kukors said in a statement. “I was able to leave a horrible monster and build a life I could have never imagined for myself.

“But in time, I’ve realized that stories like my own are too important to go unwritten. Not for the sake of you knowing my story, but for the little girls and boys whose lives and future hangs in the grasp of a horribly powerful and manipulative person. That they may not have to go through the same pain, trauma, horror, and abuse. That their parents, mentors, and guardians are better able to spot the signs of grooming and realize it’s tragic consequences before it’s too late.”

Investigators from the Department of Homeland Security searched Hutchison’s Seattle apartment on Tuesday recovering electronic devices they say may contain evidence that he exploited swimmers that he coached, according to the Post-Intelligencer.

In a statement, Hutchison denied the abuse and said he was in a “committed relationship” with Kukors. He has not been charged with a crime.

From the Post-Intelligencer:

Hutchison in a statement Thursday admitted to having what he described as “a committed relationship” with Kukors, who he said lived in his home for more than a year following the 2012 Olympic Games.

“At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual,” Hutchison said in a statement provided by his attorney, Brad Meryhew. “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 went on to say that Kukors’ family was aware of their relationship. He characterized her claims as “wild allegations” issued “all these years later.”

Hutchison resigned from his post as a U.S. Olympic swim coach in 2010 after he was confronted with rumors that he was having a relationship with one of his swimmers, an accusation he denied. He was eventually cleared by USA Swimming.

In statement Thursday, USA Swimming said it did not become aware of any allegations of abuse until Kukors spoke publicly about it.

USA Swimming’s full statement is below:

Ariana Kukors’ recent public statement marked the first time USA Swimming learned of the allegations that Sean Hutchison sexually abused Ariana when she was a minor. Our hearts go out to Ariana and the difficulty she has gone through to reach this point of disclosure. We fully support her in her case for answers and justice and applaud her courage in sharing her story in an effort to empower victims and protect athletes.

In 2010, USA Swimming became aware of a rumored relationship between Hutchison and then 21-year-old Ariana via a third-party. Based on the information, USA Swimming retained an independent private investigator and conducted a full investigation into the rumor and the possible Code of Conduct violation. During the USA Swimming investigation, both Ariana and Hutchison, as well as Ariana’s sister, Emily, unequivocally denied the existence of a romantic or sexual relationship.

With the denials from both parties, the investigation provided no basis to conclude that a Code of Conduct violation occurred, and the case was closed. Hutchison left coaching shortly thereafter but remains a member of USA Swimming as the owner of a member club based in Seattle.

In January 2018, USA Swimming was notified of a Center for Safe Sport case regarding Hutchison and we have proactively sent over the 2010 case file to aid their investigation and support in any possible way. Over the last several years, Ariana has worked with USA Swimming as on-camera talent in its digital productions and has truly become a member of the family. We stand by her, and all other victims, in their quest to break their silence and confront their horrific experiences.

Bob Allard, an attorney for Kukors, likened USA Swimming’s role with Hutchison to that between the U.S. Olympic Committee and convicted pedophile Larry Nassar in a statement.

“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 from this pedophile,” Allard said.

“If this organization had immediately reported what it knew to authorities, Hutchison likely would have been stopped, Ariana would have been spared years of abuse, and countless other young girls would have been protected from this sexual predator.”