2012 Olympian Ariana Kukors says Sean Hutchison, her 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: