Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors Smith has filed a lawsuit against USA Swimming alleging that officials knew she was sexually abused by coach Sean Hutchison while she was a minor.
The lawsuit filed in Orange County (Calif.) Supreme Court on Monday alleges that USA Swimming officials covered up the sexual abuse Kukors Smith suffered and manipulated the background check system so Hutchison would not be subject to a negative background check.
Kukors Smith says Hutchison, her coach at a club in the Seattle area, groomed her from the time she was 13 and that he began sexually molesting her when she was 16.
She says that in 2005, when she was 15 or 16, USA Swimming officials, including former executive director Chuck Wielgus, knew that she and Hutchison were involved in an inappropriate relationship.
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The lawsuit names former national team coach Mark Schubert as one of the defendants. Kukors Smith says Schubert was in charge of the team at international meets, including the 2007 and 2009 world championships, where he saw Hutchison inappropriately touching her, but Schubert and other USA Swimming coaches did not report
suspected child abuse to the legal authorities as required by law.
Hutchison has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime.
“This lawsuit is about holding responsible those who knew there was underage abuse taking place and did nothing to stop it while going out of their way to protect my abuser,” Kukors Smith said in a statement.
“Those at USA Swimming need to change the culture of protecting predator coaches over young and vulnerable athletes such as myself. To turn your back on children you have reason to know are being sexually abused because of sponsorship money is inexcusable.”
USA Swimming investigated rumors of a relationship between Kukors Smith and Hutchison in 2010. The national governing body closed the investigation without finding any misconduct, the Associated Press reported. Kukors Smith and Hutchison denied they were in a relationship at the time.
In an interview with the AP in February, Kukors Smith said she lied about the relationship because she was scared. “When I think back on it now, the truth wasn’t an option,” she said.
The 2012 Olympian She wrote in February that she decided to share her story “for the sake of little girls and boys whose lives and futures hang 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.”
Contributing: Associated Press
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Inset Image: AP Photo/File