Team USA World Champ Ariana Kukors: U.S. Swim Coach Sexually Abused Me

Ariana Kukors says her former USA Swimming coach groomed her from the age of 13, but his association with swim coaching has been allowed to continue.

REUTERS/Rabih El Moghrabi

Ariana Kukors, a world swimming champion and 2012 Olympian, went public late Wednesday with claims that former USA Swimming National Team Coach Sean Hutchison sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old.

Hutchison first became Kukors’ coach when she was just 13, at King Aquatic Club near Seattle. It was then that he began “grooming” her with the goal of sexualizing the relationship, she said in a press release. Kukors, the 2009 world champion in the 200-meter individual medley, is now 28.

"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.”

She said she came forward “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.”

According to Kukors’ legal team, the Department of Homeland Security and local police executed a search warrant on Hutchison’s apartment near Seattle on Tuesday. The Seattle Times reports that authorities seized computers and cellphones during the raid.

The now-46-year-old allegedly took explicit photos of Kukors when she was 17, The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported.

“He took hundreds or thousands of sexually explicit photographs of her,” a Homeland Security agent told SeattlePI, noting that Kukors feared Hutchison had abused other swimmers. According to court documents obtained by the news site, Homeland Security first launched the investigation into Hutchison following a report from Kukors on Jan. 30.

The news comes just one week after USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to a maximum of 275 years in prison for sexually assaulting young girls. In total, he is accused of misconduct with more than 250 girls.

According to reports, the U.S. Swimming governing body sent letters in 2004 and 2005 to the U.S. Olympic Committee asking for policies that would help the organization prevent sexual abuse by coaches. The idea was never pursued.

Earlier in Hutchison’s coaching career, he served under now-disgraced coach Paul Bergen at Tualatin Hills Swim Club, near Portland, Oregon. Bergen’s career notoriously ended when Olympic gold medalist Deena Deardurff Schmidt accused him of sexual abuse more than four decades ago.

Hutchison, who then emerged as rising star in the Olympic coaching community, resigned from his post in 2010 over rumors that he had been romantically involved with Kukors, according to The Orange County Register.

That same year, more than 36 USA Swimming coaches were banned from the organization for alleged sexual misconduct with teen swimmers. That misconduct included fondling, secretly filming the athletes in the shower, and molestation. “This had gone on for nearly 10 years, without any detection whatsoever,” said one investigator at the time.

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Hutchison, though, was not banned and was later cleared of any wrongdoing by USA Swimming. The incident also did not end his association with swim coaching, as Hutchison is still listed in several locations—including LinkedIn—as the CEO of King Aquatic Club, a premier Seattle-area swim team.

“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,” said Kukors’ attorney, Robert Allard.

“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,” he added