Harvard University diving coach Chris Heaton has been placed on leave amid claims of his sexual misconduct as a coach for RipFest Diving Club in 2015.
A new federal class-action lawsuit that names USA Diving, the Indiana Diving Association, RipFest, former Olympic coach John Wingfield, and coach Johel Ramirez Suarez as defendants was filed September 30. The suit is aimed at USA Diving and Ripfest for specifically failing to protect divers from the now-banned Suarez, who pleaded guilty to three counts of battery last month, and was initially hit with 30 charges after being accused of inappropriately touching three women, including a 15-year old, at a RipFest camp.
Though he is not among the defendants, the suit also alleges that Heaton solicited nude photos from female divers and sent them pictures of his penis at a 2015 camp, and that the divers complained to Wingfield multiple times, only to be dismissed.
The divers then reported Heaton to Chris Zukas, another RipFest coach, who in 2016 became the national events manager for USA Diving. The suit says that Zukas was “instrumental in getting Heaton to leave RipFest,” and that “USA Diving is aware of the complaints against Heaton.” The new suit came less than a week after USA Diving cut ties with its CEO of just 18 months.
Harvard placed Heaton on leave Tuesday morning, pending a review.
“Harvard Athletics was unaware of any allegations of misconduct when Mr. Heaton was hired as the Head Coach for Diving in August 2018,” the school told CNN. “Upon learning of allegations of sexual misconduct from media reports, Harvard immediately placed Mr. Heaton on leave, pending a review by Harvard University.”
Heaton, 31, is in his first season at Harvard after being hired in August. He worked for the three years prior as program director and head coach at Moss Farms Diving in Georgia, following his stint with RipFest. Heaton also coached for the Ohio State Diving Club, which is currently fighting a lawsuit over former coach Will Bohonyi, who is now banned from USA Diving following allegations that he sexually abused multiple divers while under the school’s jurisdiction.
Heaton was a 2012 Olympic Trials finalist and multi-time USA Diving nationals medalist.