A former Olympic swimmer, 28-year-old Ariana Kukors, alleges that her former coach sexually assaulted her at the age of 16, and continued to have a sexual relationship with her until the age of 24.
According to King5 News, Kukors trained under Sean Hutchison at the KING Aquatic Club from the age of 13, which she says is when 48-year-old coach started grooming her.
CBS News reports that Kukors is a 2009 World Champion in the 200-meter individual medley and won 5th place in the 2012 Olympics. Hutchison served as an assistant coach on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.
According to Swimming World, a complaint regarding an alleged relationship between Hutchison and Kukors in 2010 was made to USA Swimming, which, according to its website, “is the National Governing Body for the sport of swimming in the United States.” A private investigation was then conducted.
The Orange County Register reports that Mark Schubert, a former U.S. national team director, told the Washington Post that he looked into the rumors, but found no evidence of an inappropriate sexual relationship.
At the time of the 2010 investigation, Susan Woessner, an Athlete Protection Officer with USA Swimming, said, Swimming World reports:
“We value the well-being of all of our members and false statements or rumors can be extremely detrimental to our athlete protection efforts. We want to encourage those with credible and specific information to always come forward, and those who would spread false rumors disrespect this effort.”
Swimming World’s report added:
However, according to USA Swimming the organization recently sent the 2010 case file to the Center for Safe Sport after hearing of the new investigation regarding Hutchison in January 2018.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport is a non-profit organization that works to prevent abuse in sports, according to its website.
USA Swimming has said that this was the first time they have heard of a complaint against Hutchison. In a statement, the organization said, in part:
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.
CBS News reports that Kukors reported the alleged abuse to help protect other children from an experience like hers.
Kukors’ statement read:
I never thought I would share my story because, in so many ways, just surviving was enough. 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 its tragic consequences before it’s too late.”
Swimming World reports that USA Swimming stands behind Kukors. In its statement, USA Swimming said, in part:
“Over the last several years, Ariana … 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.”
Hutchison hasn’t yet been charged, as investigations are still underway.