Sean Hutchison, the American swimming coach who hit the headlines around the world this week, has denied allegations that he sexually abused Ariana Kukors, the 2009 World 200m medley champion and London 2012 USA Olympic team member.
Kukors claims that Hutchison began sexually abusing her at age 16, had “groomed” her since she was 13 and continued to have a relationship with her between the ages of 16 and the swimmer’s early 20s.
The case is now set to be fought in a courtroom if the coach is charged with the offences alleged to have taken place. If it gets to court, this is what will be told by Arian Kukors.
The case was previously the subject of inquiry but yesterday USA Swimming, the national federation, was quoted as saying that it learned of the sexual abuse claim from the swimmer only this week. That stance was based on what the federation says it was told in 2011 by Kukors and Hutchison: ‘there was not sexual relationship’.Now, Kukors says there was – and so does Hutchison, the coach’s statement emphasising that, as far as he as concerned, sex was consensual and did not happen until Kukors was of legal age to make her own decisions on whether and with whom she would have sex.
USA Swimming’s position is not entirely consistent either, critics have noted: it assumes they are prepared to ignore what she told them in 2011 and, potentially, accept that there could have been circumstances in 2011 that were not conducive to the swimmer and the coach telling the truth, while now stating in 2018 that they side with the swimmer and will help all victims of abuse in their “quest for truth”.
In statement in response to the allegations from Kukors, Hutchison says:
“At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual. 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. After the 2012 Olympics we were in a committed relationship and Ariana lived at my residence in Seattle for more than a year. Her younger sister also lived with us for several months and her mother was a regular visitor to our home. I deeply regret that she would make these wild allegations all these years later.”
KING Aquatic Club, where Hutchison is an “executive” who has little contact with swimmers, is reviewing the claims of sexual abuse. However, American media report today that until Wednesday, Hutchison’s photo was to be found on the coaches page of the club website.
“Last night’s news broke our collective hearts,” KING Aquatic Club Head Coach Michael Brooks said in a statement. “Ariana Kukors is part of the King Aquatic family and we only want the best for her.”
Kukors issued a statement on Wednesday that read:
“I never thought I would share my story because, in so many ways, just surviving was enough,” Kukors said. “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.”
Kukors said she came to the realization of the abuse after undergoing therapy. Her attorneys worked with Homeland Security Investigations and Des Moines Police to execute a search at Hutchison’s apartment. Des Moines Police received a report from Seattle Police on January 23, 2018, that alleged sex crimes occurred at the Mount Rainier Pool in Des Moines between 2002 and 2007, when the alleged victim turned 18. Police noted that the “suspect” was the alleged victim’s swim coach but did not name Hutchison.
One of the senior lawyers representing Kukors, Robert Allard, stated: “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.
“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.”
You can read the USA Swimming statement in full at the foot of our article of yesterday.
Meanwhile, Kukors and her lawyers have asked anyone with information to call HSI Seattle at (206) 442-1469 or email information at email@example.com.
Nothing under the sun …
USA Swimming published two lists of banned members, many of them barred on the basis of sex-related offences. Among those on the permanently banned list are Everett Uchiyama, the a former national team director for USA Swimming, and Rick Curl, a former national team swimmer turned coach.
The USA is far from being the only nation to have suffered the scourge of sex-abuserv coaches. In Britain, Olympic coach Paul Hickson was sent to jail for 17 years (later reduced by a few years) after being found guilty of multiple rape and sexual assault charges against teenage swimmers; and in Ireland Olympic coach Derry O’Rourke became known as the monster of a “chamber of horrors” when the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard in 1998 the then 51-year-old plead guilty to 29 charges relating to 11 girls and covering “unlawful carnal knowledge” of girls under 15, sexual assault and indecent assault, all committed between 1976 and 1992.
In 2002, soon after Australian-born Matthew Pedrazzini, a council swimming coach in Birmingham, England, was jailed for 15 years for unlawful intercourse with a girl and possession of indecent photographs, British Swimming and related organisations confirmed that they were investigating 20 cases of alleged child abuse by coaches, including two of sexual abuse. The ASA and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children subsequently published a report on cases of abuse between 1996 and 2001.
In Britain and elsewhere a “sex offenders register” is operated so that potential employers can run checks on any applying for work with children and young adults in the realm of education, care and sport.
Raped at 19, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Champion Women boss, 1984 Olympic 100m freestyle champion and an attorney who has long advocated for safety in sport and the victims of abuse, has campaigned for sports rules to bar any relationships between coaches and their athletes, of what age.
Such rules would catch up with rules and codes that already exist far and wide in academia.
USA Swimming has a been accused by critics and lawyers representing victims of having down too little too late.
That charge was acknowledged in 2014 by former CEO Chuck Wielgus, now deceased, when he made a public apology in the wake of a successful campaign by Hogshead-Makar and others to keep him out of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.