Olympian Ariana Kukors Accuses Former Coach Sean Hutchison of Sexual Abuse

2012 Olympian Ariana Kukors says Sean Hutchisonher former coach, began sexually abusing her at the age of 16.

Kukors, now 28, came forward with the abuse allegations this week, claiming that Hutchison began “grooming” her at the age of 13 and sexually abusing her at 16, according to a press release from Kukors’ attorney. Hutchison first began coaching Kukors at the King Aquatic Club in Seattle when she was 13.

Hutchison coached Kukors when she made the U.S. National Team as a teen – first the Pan Pacific Championships in 2006 and Worlds in 2007. From 2009 to late 2010, Hutchison headed up a “Center of Excellence” pro training hub in Fullerton, California, a short-lived program under the banner of FAST, or Fullerton Area Swim Team. His training group included Kukors, then an adult, along with several other high-profile professional swimmers. That group rapidly disintegrated when Hutchison left at the end of 2010. There were reports and allegations that Hutchison was dismissed for an inappropriate relationship with a swimmer, though those allegations were never proven.

A press release from Kukors’ attorney Bob Allard, who has represented many victims of sexual abuse in swimming, says that “after years of suppressing memories of the pain and suffering, [she] came to the realization that she was sexually abused.” The release also says Kukors worked with the Department of Homeland Security and local police, who obtained a warrant and searched Hutchison’s apartment.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that Hutchison is accused of taking nude photos of “an underage Olympian he was sexually abusing,” though it doesn’t name the athlete. That report says that a Homeland Security investigation discovered electronic devices that “may contain evidence that Hutchison sexually exploited swimmers he was trusted to coach.” The Seattle PI story goes on to say Kukors accuses Hutchison of taking “hundreds or thousands of sexually explicit photographs of her” at the age of 17.

We requested police records related to the warrant and the search, but the local police department says it isn’t required to release the public records until after the investigation is complete.

Kukors’ allegations come on the heels of the high-profile Larry Nassar case in which more than 150 women testified about alleged sexual abuse at the hands of the sports medicine doctor. Kukors’ press release mentions Nassar by name, comparing the USOC’s failure to stop Nassar’s abuse to USA Swimming’s handling of Hutchison. The release alleges that USA Swimming knew about an inappropriate athlete-coach relationship involving Hutchison as early as 2010 and didn’t take action against him.

Hutchison is still involved in coaching. He is the CEO of King Aquatic Club and runs a multi-sport training program called Ikkos. We reached out to Hutchison for comment, but have not yet received a response.

Update 2/8: King has removed Hutchison from the coaches page on its website and gave us this statement: “King Aquatics is devoted to the healthy development and safety of young swimmers and athletes.  Last night’s news broke our collective hearts.  Ariana Kukors is part of the King Aquatic family and we only want the best for her.  Our staff is meeting to review this devastating news.  Sean Hutchison is an executive with King but has had no direct interaction with our swimmers for a very long time.  We support all of the past and current King Aquatic swimmers, and that will continue to be our number one priority.”

Update 2/9: Hutchison’s attorney has released a statement from Hutchison to the Associated Press denying the allegations. His full statement is below:

“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.”

 

In her press release, Kukors said she came forward with her allegations in order to protect others from suffering sexual abuse and grooming:

“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 it’s tragic consequences before it’s too late.”

Kukors’ attorney says she filed a complaint with USA Swimming’s SafeSport division two weeks ago. He said USA Swimming received a complaint in 2011 and investigated by interviewing Kukors, who at the time denied she was in a relationship with Hutchison. We reached out to USA Swimming for comment but have not yet received response.

Update 2/8: USA Swimming responded with a statement detailing their 2010 investigation, in which the federation says Kukors, Hutchison and Kukors’ sister all denied any romantic or sexual relationship. The full statement is below:

Ariana Kukors’ recent public statement marked the first time USA Swimming learned of the allegations that Sean Hutchison sexually abused Ariana when she was a minor. Our hearts go out to Ariana and the difficulty she has gone through to reach this point of disclosure. We fully support her in her case for answers and justice and applaud her courage in sharing her story in an effort to empower victims and protect athletes.
“In 2010, USA Swimming became aware of a rumored relationship between Hutchison and then 21-year-old Ariana via a third-party. Based on the information, USA Swimming retained an independent private investigator and conducted a full investigation into the rumor and the possible Code of Conduct violation.
“During the USA Swimming investigation, both Ariana and Hutchison, as well as Ariana’s sister, Emily, unequivocally denied the existence of a romantic or sexual relationship.
“With the denials from both parties, the investigation provided no basis to conclude that a Code of Conduct violation occurred, and the case was closed. Hutchison left coaching shortly thereafter but remains a member of USA Swimming as the owner of a member club based in Seattle.
“In January 2018, USA Swimming was notified of a Center for Safe Sport case regarding Hutchison and we have proactively sent over the 2010 case file to aid their investigation and support in any possible way.
“Over the last several years, Ariana has worked with USA Swimming as on-camera talent in its digital productions and has truly become a member of the family. We stand by her, and all other victims, in their quest to break their silence and confront their horrific experiences.”

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Correa

How do you eventually came to the realization that you were sexually abused?. What does that mean? You either were or were not and it is not a sudden epiphany. Seems strange to me as she apparently continued a relationship until 24 which indicates that she knew what she was doing.

Correa

I am sorry that my comments came across the way they did. If things do turn out the way she described, then hopefully the law and USA Swimming will take care of him appropriately. I spent time reading about grooming and how a relationship could continue for so long and I do have a better understanding. Having known someone that was falsely accused and what it did to him, I did have a different starting point. Thank you.

KUDOS CORREA

It takes a stronger person to post the above, than it did to post all the other posts you contributed to this thread. THANK YOU for being that person.

I’m glad you took the time to research “grooming” and then be able to understand it in relation to this sad, sad story. As I hope you now understand, “realization” of abuse inflicted upon yourself can sometimes take years/decades to come to the surface. It doesn’t make it any less traumatic when it does, in fact, some would argue it could intensify the trauma.

jmanswimfan

Because people like you exist to put them down.

Swim Fan

You don’t get it. She was groomed from age 13 for a sexual relationship that began when she was 16. The power dynamic was strong and he remained her coach for years. He certainly knew what he was doing. Having to deal with it most likely gave her a very warped perspective of the situation.

Seriously?

You can’t be serious with this response.

A 16 year old having sex with a 31 year old in a position of power isn’t sexual abuse because she didn’t realize it fast enough.

I don’t even know where to start.

Dan

Hope this is not taken the wrong way.
Is age of consent 16? I thought it was 18.
In this case or similar cases, I don’t think swimmers and coaches should date or be that close

CanSwim13

Have you seen the landscape of society for many women. For so long things have be swept under the rug but with the the USA gymnastic case and even bigger the #metoo movement. Maybe she didn’t feel comfortable coming out with the story before these two incredible events occurred which led to change actually happening

Dee

I’d add; I don’t think it’s only women who face that, and as you say it isn’t rare to realise years later what happened. We’re conditioned to feel shame at our perceived weakness as humans, male or female, so many people say nothing.

We’ve had this in English football recently; men whose lives have been torn apart because of abuse suffered in their teens at the hands of coaches. Most of them are now in their 40s, are fathers etc.

Solidarity to Ariana, and all victims of abuse.

Correa

So, why are there published stories that her car was next to his at 5 AM. Seems consensual to me.

sven

The wrinkle here is that he had been in a position of authority over her since she was 13. It’s very easy to argue that it was not consensual due to the fact that he had been grooming her for such a long time.

BBQ Billy

The sexual abuse began at 16. Consent does not apply here. She was a minor, he an adult. Statute of limitations begins when victim finally realizes he/she was a victim of abuse. Sven gets it, and so do most who read this and abhor what is happening to young people by their coaches and staff.

JohnJ

The age of consent in the state of WA is 16, so consent absolutely applies from a legal basis.

Further, what is troubling here is that Kukors alleges sexual assualt at 16, but for some reason decided to stay in a relationship with him off and on until 24?

The USA Swimming investigation (and its subsequent conclusion) in 2011 revelaed nothing. Now the circumstances change completely based on her new allegations. Should her candor be called in to question? Just asking.

ade

Responses like these make me realize just how far we have to go still as a society. If you have children of your own (particularly if they are girls), I strongly urge you to consider what your 13 year old is capable of standing up to & recognizing as an abuse of power and authority of a 31 year old man.

dmswim

Victims frequently stay with their abusers because their abuser has convinced them that their relationship is normal. Also, at 16 a lot of young people think they are mature enough to enter into an adult relationship only to realize once their brain has fully developed years that they were not and the adult they were in a relationship with had taken advantage of their youth and immaturity. That realization for Ariana obviously came in her mid-20s (coincidentally around the time the brain finishes developing). Abusers use mental manipulation and take advantage of a young person’s immaturity to keep them in the relationship.

Kirk Nelson

This is considered sexual misconduct with a minor in the first degree per Washington law. See http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9A.44.093

Steve Nolan

Hey, John – this post is bad.

JohnJ

Thanks Steve. You provided zero substance as usual.

Steve Nolan

To be fair – and I don’t want to put words in Sven’s mouth – but I believe the “consent” he was responding to was regarding Correa’s ridiculous comments about her at 24.

KNOW IT ALL

5am is pretty standard for morning practice for swimmers in school / pros who may have other commitments

Ervin

…Yeah but 5am practice doesn’t take place at the coach’s apartment

KNOW IT ALL

Not sure where anyone is getting that information, but I would agree! Provide a source…

Jem

Wow. Just wow. You are clearly unable to process that predatory behavior / relationships, especially those that start from such a young age, can be a lot more complex than whether someone was willing or not willing after years of being subject to said behavior.

Correa

Yeah right. At age 24???

George Clinton

It must be nice to be blissfully unaware of the psychology of abuse. Your postings continue to ruin this site. Did they throw you off of a veteran’s website for shaming victims of PTSD and you landed here?

Sane swim parent

Grooming started at 13, not 24. But hey, way to shame someone who finally found it in her to speak out. You should really think before you post.

Sch

What she may have consented to at age 24 does not nullify events which occurred when she was a minor.

WCNJCTNY

The issue is that this seemingly began (according to Kukors) at age 13 when he began grooming her. By 16 (underage and unable to consent), he was taking naked pictures of her apparently. So clearly there was a ton of inappropriate behavior on his part. And neither you nor I would know or understand how that can emotionally and psychologically scar a victim, leading to what seemed to be a consensual relationship at a later age. Kukors has nothing to gain at this point.

Coach

1 – not sure whether you can “give consent” legally at 16. 2 – adult coach/16 year old athlete = abuse. 3 – are you really that dense, color blind or simply the world’s worst troll?

Guy

I’m Washington State you can “give consent” legally at 16

SWAMMER

So sorry to hear that another talented athlete had to endure such treatment. Good for her for speaking out. I hope it will help her to heal and help others in a similar situation.

David Berkoff

Who voted down. Shame on you!

BaldingEagle

Correa, Rick Curl, Sean Hutchison…

Correa

Because it seems very suspicious that she continues a relationship for apparently several years.

David Berkoff

So you were the down vote. What do you have to hide?

Sadness

Well this could explain a lot of the weird things that went on at King. He acted like supreme leader with super secrecy. Then the Fullerton thing came on like a flash. Could this explain why Megan Jendrick didn’t follow? What about the rest of his Olympians? I fear this is the tip of an iceberg

Huh

Wasn’t there something of a physical altercation between two female athletes of his that occurred around the FAST time that revolved around relationship jealousy? I don’t recall the athletes involved but have a fleeting memory of this being a topic of discussion.

A shame that our sport continues to be tainted by this type of predatory behavior.

Coach

If memory serves, it was Kukors and Katie Hoff that had the altercation.

Misdirected

I don’t think your memory is serving. Hutchinson spread a bunch of rumors at the time that were clearly false so as to cast doubt on anything that came out, true or false.

Huh

What’s the down vote? This was occurring and nothing was done. At a minimum inappropriate relationships were occurring during this time period and nothing was done. I don’t have facts but it was a topic. Someone here will offer more details. I guess downvoters support coach athlete relationships.

David Berkoff

Correa is on the banned list apparently.

Correa

odd that the site will not allow me to vote thumbs up.

Raymond Woods

You really want to know what I would allow you to do?

Huh

And best wishes and support to all athletes that have endured this abuse. May they all surface to finally rid us of this scourge.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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