Susan Woessner, the USA Swimming Safe Sport Director, resigned today at the height of a crisis at USA Swimming: in the wake of allegations by Ariana Kukors against her coach Sean Hutchison, Woessner admitted to being close to the same coach back in 2007 but then failing to disclose that before she contributed to an investigation into Hutchison when rumours were rife that he was having an affair with Kukors.
In a letter to USA Swimming’s membership, Woessner said that “while I would normally consider my personal life to be private, it is in the interest of full disclosure that I describe an incident from 11 years ago.”
Woessner said she had had a single “encounter” with Hutchison and no romantic relationship with him or any other USA Swimming coach.
That and the Woessner’s decision coincided with another major resignation at USA swimming: Club Development Managing Director Pat Hogan also stepped down. While Woessner explained her reasons in a public letter, Hogan’s public letter offered no explanation.
Rumours in the USA suggested that Hogan’s departure was related to a relationship he had with a former swimmer. Hogan’s first wife began training for him at the age of 17. Hogan was then 27 and the two later married. In 2010, Hogan told the New York Times that the relationship began when they were both adults.
A year after, in 2011, when Woessner was USA Swimming’s Athlete Protection Officer, she played a role in the investigation of rumours that Hutchison and Kukors were involved in a sexual relationship. Both swimmer and coach told the “inquiry” – which Ariana Kukors said last week in her “My Story” revelations amounted to a short phone call from a private eye – that they had not had sex.
When Kukors made her allegations last week and Hutchison denied having had sex with the swimmer when she was still a minor, both admitted that they had lied to the 2011 inquiry.
During the 2011 investigation, Woessner claims that she was to provide contact information for potential witnesses to the investigator; provide status updates from outside legal to Chuck Wielgus, the then Executive Director of USA Swimming, and, at the request of outside legal, contact potential witnesses and direct them to the investigator.
In resigning, Woessner says that while she was “proud” of her work with Safe Sport, she felt that “in order to keep the focus on the tremendous efforts of my friends, colleagues and personal heroes working every day to keep kids safe”, she needed to resign.
USA Swimming stated in a release that it accepted that Woessner had made an error of judgement, saying that “the incident in question did not conflict with any organizational rules prior to her subsequent position working in Safe Sport in 2010. Considering Woessner’s Safe Sport role, a disclosure of this interaction should have preceded an investigation involving Hutchison in December 2010.”
USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey defended Safe Sport, stating:
“Since its inception, the effort and work of the Safe Sport program have been among the leading initiatives in amateur sport. We are committed to carrying on with the efforts Susan led, supported by the Board of Directors and the organization, to create a safe environment for children and swimming families across the country.”
The resignation coincides with the SwimVortex Safe Sport Series. So far:
- significant developments in GB Masters
- the words of Olympic podium placer Michael Jamieson and considered their relevance to woeful culture at the heart of FINA and the poor response of national federations who show no inclination to use their potential power to change the game in the interests of athlete protection from various forms of abuse.
- the Larry Nassar abuse case, a story about much more than a doctor who traded the hippocratic oath for hypocrisy and criminality; a story that calls into question the usefulness of the Olympic Movement, the United States Olympic Committee and the role of USA Swimming when it comes to the protection of athletes.
- Climate Change: empowering coaches to ensure sport is a safe, healthy and enriching place for all, at whatever level: we recall 2014 lectures delivered by Prof. Joan Duda, of Empowering Coaching, at the World Aquatics Development Conference in Lund on a day of high relevance to current events; and by Dr. Fiona McLachlan, academic adviser to Shane Gould in the 1972 triple Olympic champion’s PHD studies, for the guardians of swimming youth to consider “How to be Good”.
- the relevance of Fran Crippen and his passing to events at the Winter Olympics.
- the death of Qing Wenyi
- World Coaches call for global swim community to press FINA on clean sport
- If Prohibition Must Sober The Olympics, Then Ban The Blazers Craving Nobel Prizes
- Time To Ban The Olympic Cold Shoulder To Truth, Whistleblowing & Red-Flag Waving
- I Ran Past The First Watchman … Does your silence indicate permission to pass?
- Why USA Swimming’s Leadership Must Face Full Inquiry Into Abuse Down The Years – The Orange Country register’s telling investigation
Questions sent out this week to pertinent parties:
- Questions For Coaches On Their Jobs, Athlete Welfare & The Role Of Blazers
- Questions For USA Swimming, USAS & Their Busy Safe Sport Unit
- Questions For Athletes Who Represent Athletes At The House Of FINA