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Olympic swimmer and former world-record holder Ariana Kukors filed a lawsuit on Monday against USA Swimming, alleging that officials knew her coach Sean Hutchinson sexually assaulted her while she was a minor.
The lawsuit, filed in Orange County, California, alleges that USA Swimming covered up the abuse and manipulated its background check system so that Hutchinson wouldn’t fail the test.
“We are here today to force USA Swimming, the national governing body of the sport of swimming in America, to accept responsibility for allowing, and in fact, enabling a known predator coach to sexually molest for almost a decade, my client Ariana beginning when she was just a young child,” Kukors’ attorney Robert Allard told the Seattle Times on Monday.
Kukors, 28, accused Hutchinson of sexually assaulting her starting when she was 16 and continuing to have sexual contact with her until she was 24. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Kukors alleges that he took nude photos of her when she was a teenager. Kukors told police that Hutchinson sexually assaulted her both on trips and while training in Seattle, and that he used his position as her coach at the Seattle club to “groom her” for sexual assault starting when she was 13.
Kukors said that in 2005, when she was 15 or 16, USA Swimming officials — including former director Chuck Wielgus — knew that she was involved in an inappropriate relationship with Hutchinson, according to USA Today.
“This lawsuit is about holding accountable people who should have protected a 15-year-old girl,” Kukors told the Seattle Times on Monday. “I needed help, and there were people in positions of power who could have helped me.”
Hutchinson, who was the assistant coach for the 2008 Olympic team, has denied Kukors’ allegations. Investigators have searched his home, but he has not been charged with a crime.
The lawsuit also names former national team coach Mark Schubert as one of the defendants, saying that he failed to report “a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or endangerment.”
According to USA Today, Kukors said Schubert, who was in charge of the team at international meets, saw Hutchinson inappropriately touch her at the 2007 and 2009 world championships. Schubert and other team officials didn’t report the abuse.
The lawsuit also stated that USA Swimming officials “warned others that if they spoke out against Hutchinson they could be liable for ‘slander’ and/or labeled an instigator of a ‘witch hunt.'”
“As expressed earlier this year, we respect Ariana Kukors’ bravery in stepping forward and sharing her story,” USA Swimming said in a statement on Monday. “We have been in regular contact with her legal team over the last several months and will continue to work with them and Ariana through this process. No further information will be provided at this time, given the pending litigation.”
USA Swimming did investigate rumors of a relationship between Kukors and Hutchinson in 2010, though it closed the investigation without finding misconduct. The lawsuit alleges that USA Swimming conducted a “sham investigation” to protect itself.
“It is about accountability and, ultimately, prevention,” Kukors told the Seattle Times. “Organizations like USA Swimming have long been in a position to deter, detect and discipline sexual abuse and have done little or nothing in an effort to protect their public image. By doing nothing, it enabled Sean to abuse me for a decade.
“During that decade, he stole many things from me, including my swimming career, my college experience, friendships, my virginity and ultimately, my Olympic dream. Those in power need to remember that a report or a rumor is not just that. Behind that report is a child who desperately needs help. That child is depending on USA Swimming to do the right thing and report and properly investigate claims.”
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