By Dan D’Addona.
In February, 2012 Olympian Ariana Kukors came forward with accusations that her former coach had sexually abused her for years.
The accusations moved into the legal realm on Monday.
Kukors filed a civil suit in Orange County Superior Court against her former coach Sean Hutchison, USA Swimming, including Mark Schubert, former U.S. national team director as well as Aquatic Management Group Inc, a company owned by Hutchison and King Aquatic Club, Hutchison’s former Seattle-area club.
The complaint for damages in the suit includes sexual abuse of a minor, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the suit. It also alleges that USA Swimming knew about the sexual relationship between Hutchison and Kukors when Kukors was just 16.
The suit, first reported by the Orange County Register, is the latest development in a case that has been at the forefront of sexual abuse issues in the sport of swimming.
The Register spearheaded an investigation of USA Swimming that showed that top USA Swimming personnel were aware of sexually predatory coaches of years, but took no action.
Hutchison has repeatedly denied allegations of abuse, insisting their relationship was consensual and happened after Kukors was an adult.
“At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual,” Hutchison said in a statement. “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.”
Kukors rebutted that denial in a long social media post.
First, Kukors explained how she began swimming with Hutchison when she was 13, how he initiated the process of “grooming” her for a relationship when he insisted that all swimmers shake hands with him after practice and how he developed personal relationships with his athletes. The two began texting when a 15-year-old Kukors got her first cell phone.
Kukors vividly described an incident when, in her mind, Hutchison first acted inappropriately. After practice one day, she wrote, the coach inquired about her undergarments, and that progressed to incidents of kissing and touching when Kukors was still underage.
Schubert was made aware of the rumored situation and said he brought those rumors to the CEO of Fullerton Area Swim Team (FAST), Bill Jewell, immediately.
“I heard the rumor in October of 2010 and passed it on to Bill Jewell who was the head coach at FAST,” Schubert said. “Bill asked me if I knew a private investigator and I did and Bill hired him. It was pretty shocking. I felt like I knew him pretty well. I had served on a number of national teams with him. I was just shocked. He was a very fine coach. Popular. Up and coming. I was really surprised.”
The investigation only found an instance of the cars of Hutchison and Kukors being parked next to each other at 5.a.m. in front of Hutchison’s condo, Schubert said.
A Washington Post article brought a little more to light, Schubert said.
“Well after all of this came to light in the Washington Post article. One of the swimmers of the national team (later) said they saw him come out of her room at 2 a.m., in 2009,” Schubert said.
USA Swimming investigated the rumors in 2010. Hutchinson and Kukors both denied they were having a sexual relationship, something that would be against USA swimming policy. Kukors has since said on her website that she was lying then.
Schubert has said to multiple news outlets that USA Swimming failed miserably in this case where they supposedly thoroughly investigated Hutchinson in late 2010 and exonerated him. The suit claims that Schubert and others did not properly report knowledge of the issue.
Despite reporting the rumors, Schubert said he would have handled the situation differently if he could do it over again.
“We are all a lot more educated in this subject,” he said. “I would have alerted the police to the situation with the rumors. Back then, you felt like you weren’t sure what to say. it is obvious from (Ariana’s) comments that she wishes someone would have said something even if she didn’t say something.”