Olympian Ariana Kukors (now Ariana Kukors Smith by marriage) has filed a civil suit against former coach Sean Hutchison, USA Swimming and former national team director Mark Schubert, alleging sexual abuse of a minor and negligence.
Kukors says Schubert and USA Swimming covered up sex crimes by Hutchison, and that Schubert failed to report “reasonable suspicion of child abuse or endangerment” based on behavior Kukors said Schubert saw between then-teenage Kukors and her coach at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships and 2007 World Championships.
Kukors and her attorneys announced the suit in a press conference today. In the suit, she also alleges that USA Swimming vice president Murray Stephens and former USA Swimming Club Development Managing Director Pat Hogan “protected Hutchison during a background check,” per The OC Register. Hogan resigned in February. Though he didn’t specify a reason for his resignation, he had come under fire for his relationship with his first wife, who began swimming for him at age 17, when he was a 27-year-old coach. Hogan says the relationship between the two didn’t start until both were adults.
The suit seeks payment for damages, for legal fees and for punitive damages against Hutchison, USA Swimming, KING Aquatic Club and Aquatic Management Group.
Update: USA Swimming has released the following statement:
“As expressed earlier this year, we respect Ariana Kukors’ bravery in stepping forward and sharing her story. We have been in regular contact with her legal team over the last several months and will continue to work with them and Ariana through this process. No further information will be provided at this time, given the pending litigation.”
You can read the full lawsuit here. We’ll continue digging through and updating this story with any more pertinent information we find.
Earlier this year, Kukors came forward with allegations that Hutchison began grooming her at the age of 13 and sexually abusing her at 16 while Hutchison coached her at the KING Aquatic Club in Washington. Hutchison categorically denied the allegations, saying only that he and Kukors had “a committed relationship” that did not begin until she was “old enough to make those decisions for herself.”
Hutchison began coaching Kukors when he was 31. Kukors and Hutchison later moved to join a burgeoning professional training group within Fullerton Area Swim Team, or FAST, in 2009.
USA Swimming admitted that it received a tip about an inappropriate relationship between the two in 2010 (Kukors was 21 by then, but a relationship between a coach and swimmer was still against USA Swimming’s Code of Conduct), but says its investigation didn’t turn up any evidence. The organization says Hutchison, Kukors and Kukors’ sister all denied that a romantic relationship existed. Kukors’ attorney says Kukors denied the claims because she was in an abusive relationship with Hutchison at the time.
But that investigation is now under scrutiny of its own. USA Swimming’s former SafeSport Senior Director Susan Woessner resigned earlier this year while admitting she kissed Hutchison in 2007 and didn’t disclose the kiss when she worked on the 2010 investigation of Hutchison and Kukors.
Then-USA Swimming National Team head coach Mark Schubert claimed earlier this year that he heard rumors that Hutchison was engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a swimmer, and that he brought those rumors to the attention of FAST head coach and CEO Bill Jewell. Jewell then hired a private investigator, but the only evidence found was a photo of Hutchison and Kukors’ cars parked together at 5 AM in front of Hutchison’s condo.
But now, The OC Register reports that Jewell claims he began to hear rumors and asked Schubert to help him find a private investigator. Jewell’s story places that interaction after Schubert had been fired by USA Swimming.
Kukors: ‘A pedophile is a pedophile’
You can read the full OC Register report, which includes a lot more detail on Hutchison’s alleged abuse of Kukors here. In it, Kukors has some strong words for her former coach and romantic partner:
“A pedophile is a pedophile and that’s exactly what I believe Sean Hutchison is based on a what he’s done to me,” Kukors says. …”[T]he power differential is extremely important not only to take into account the sexual abuse but also the psychological abuse that comes into play there. Because when you have someone dangling the golden carrot of your Olympic dream it doesn’t leave a whole lot of options”
Kukors also says Hutchison remained in contact with her after she broke things off, even after she met her future fiancee, Matt Smith. In the OC Register report, Kukors says Smith found out about the sexual abuse, and in 2016, he contacted Hutchison and told him to stop contacting Kukors. Kukors says she was terrified about what Hutchison would do. Smith says he’d never seen someone so terrified in his life, and that Kukors’ reaction when he told her he’d contacted Hutchison was “to sit on the floor in the fetal position for like an hour.”
- Olympian Ariana Kukors Accuses Former Coach Sean Hutchison of Sexual Abuse
- Ariana Kukors Opens Up With Details About Hutchison Abuse Allegations
- Sean Hutchison Denies Kukors’ Abuse Allegations In Statement
- USA Swimming Investigated Hutchison/Kukors In 2010, Statement Confirms
- Mark Schubert Says He Reported Hutchison/Kukors Rumors To FAST Coach
- SafeSport Director Susan Woessner Resigns, Discloses 2007 Kiss With Hutchison
Here’s a look at some of the specific allegations made in Kukors’ lawsuit:
- That USA Swimming officials “secretly agreed” to manipulate the organization’s background-check process to protect Hutchison from “pervasive rumors of his inappropriate sexually motivated behavior towards minors.”
- That Murray and Hogan also benefited from this manipulation so they would also pass background checks.
- That USA Swimming officials warned others that if they spoke out against Hutchison, they could be liable of slander.
- That a relationship between Hutchison and Kukors was “widely known” within USA Swimming leadership as of 2006, but that no one reported anything or tried to protect Kukors.
- That Woessner “not only had a prior intimate sexual relationship with Hutchison but also had such a relationship with at least one other USA Swimming swim coach.”
Also named in the lawsuit are the Aquatic Management Group (which managed the Mt. Rainier pool where Kukors says Hutchison first began grooming her with KING), Western Zone Swimming, Pacific Northwest Swimming (local governing bodies within USA Swimming) and KING Aquatic Club.