Olympian Caroline Burckle Accuses Bowman, Hutchison of Sending “Disturbing Texts”

Update #2 (7/23): Bob Bowman has released a statement. Read more here.

Update: USA Swimming has released a statement on the matter:

“In 2011, USA Swimming was made aware of inappropriate texts sent to an adult former member athlete by a member coach. The organization does not condone this type of communication no matter the relationship between the parties. The issue was addressed by USA Swimming, and warning letters were issued to the offending parties, which also included a non-athlete member in the presence of the coach.”

Original article follows:

2008 Olympic bronze medalist Caroline Burckle has accused swim coaches Bob Bowman and Sean Hutchison of sending her inappropriate text messages, the OC Register is reporting today. The texts were previously alluded to in a lawsuit filed by another U.S. Olympian Ariana Kukors against USA Swimming relating to what she says was sexual abuse and grooming by Hutchison beginning at age 13. Burckle was coached by Hutchison when she swam for FAST in Fullerton, California from 2009 until her retirement.

Bowman, currently the head coach of Arizona State, is most famous as the lifelong coach of Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic swimmer in history. Bowman was also the head coach of the 2016 U.S. Olympic men’s swim team.

The exact text messages were not released, but Burckle said that “they were so aggressive.” The incident is alleged to have taken place on the evening of May 16th, 2011, when Burckle would have been 24-years old and recently retired from swimming. The texts were sent 5 months after Hutchison retired from coaching FAST.

“For me it’s the principle of it,” Burckle said to the OC Register. “It’s about giving people the respect they deserve and shouldn’t have to ask for. It’s about creating a feeling of support within your (sports) community, athletes you feel respected and supported. It’s about empowering a younger generation of athletes. Athletes shouldn’t have to act a certain way to please their male coach.”

“I was a 24-year-old female swimmer who had retired way too young but was sick of all the (garbage),” she said. “I wanted to change lives and do different things but felt trapped.”

The texts hit her, she said, “like a whirlwind.”

“I was disgusted,” Burckle said. “I felt violated, felt sad too. This was a sport that I had just left and loved and so I felt very sad.”

Burckle says that she reported the messages and voicemail to USA Swimming National Team assistant Jack Roach, who forwarded it on to USA Swimming National Team Director Frank Busch. According to a letter sent by USA Swimming on June 3rd, 2011, Busch stressed that “it is important you understand the severity of the situation.”

“It has been reported to me that on the evening of May 16, 2011 a former USA Swimming member athlete received a series of inappropriate and suggestive text messages and a voicemail from a phone belonging to you,” Busch wrote, attaching “copies of texts received by the swimmer from your phone.”

“Firstly, the swimmer has experienced significant mental distress as a result,” Busch continued.  “Pending a conversation between you and me, I would like for you to appropriately address this with her so that she can put the incident behind her.

“Secondly, please be aware that if the content of the texts and voicemail had been directed to a current USA Swimming member athlete, this behavior would be considered a potential violation of USA Swimming Code of Conduct 304.3.7.7 ‘Any sexual conduct, advance or other inappropriate sexually oriented behavior or action directed towards an athlete by (i) a coach member or other non-athlete member, or (ii) any other adult participating in any capacity whatsoever in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming (whether such adult is a member or not). Any nonconsensual physical sexual conduct, or pattern of unwelcome advances or other sexual harassment in connection with or incidental to a USA Swimming-related activity by any person participating in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming (whether such person is a member or not) directed toward any member or other person participating in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming.”

Busch added “I am willing to include a response letter from you detailing your recollection of the situation as well as your plan of action to ensure this was an isolated event never to be repeated.  Any further reports of such activity will be addressed through the National Board of Review.”

Burckle says Bowman later apologized for the texts, but that she never heard from Hutchison.

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Soki bili
4 years ago

Sorry – long time swimmer/fan – enough is enough. If we don’t clean this up then swimming just becomes the Catholic Church of the sports world. No more excuses – reading the posturing reminds me of all the denials in similar situations in past. Need to make it right.

OwnItBob
4 years ago

Precisely. No one who has enough demons to influence a national organization to cover for their professional image deserves the added coverage of a public institution to cover for their actual record of behavior #TimesUp⁠ ⁠

My5Swim
4 years ago

As a parent this sickens me. I don’t care that she was 24 and no longer swimming. What if this happened to your daughter? I applaud Caroline for reporting this to USA Swimming. This type of incident needs to be addressed and documented. I would not want my daughter, or son for that matter, swimming for a coach who thinks it is okay to communicate with a swimmer–past or present–in this manner. After determining whether a school is a good academic fit, the character of a college coach is the number one thing I look at when considering college swim programs with my kids. It might not be what my kids’ number one priority is, but you better believe I… Read more »

rockinit
Reply to  My5Swim
4 years ago

Agreed, wonder whats going thru the minds of parents of incoming ASU swimmers?

Manta520
Reply to  My5Swim
4 years ago

Good luck accurately judging the character of college swimming coaches PRIOR to having your child swim for them.

Just Keep Swimming
4 years ago

At the time of the incident she was not a member of USA swimming or in any way under Bob’s control. She was a grown woman who had the ability to say no and block his number. Just because someone sends innapropriate texts does not mean that they are a predator. It is very sad that this incident could become what defines Bob’s career instead of the amazing athletes he has created and the work he has put in.

Swimcoach
Reply to  Just Keep Swimming
4 years ago

Except the message was directed to both Caroline and her brother (who was still competing). Unsure how you are defending this.

Steve Schaffer
Reply to  Just Keep Swimming
4 years ago

I’m sorry, but why should former or current swimmers, or ANYONE, whether adult or not, have to be subjected to unsolicited lascivious messages from coaches, especially elite coaches? This kind of behavior is simply should not be tolerated from any coach in our profession, regardless of their accomplishments.

Own It, Bob
4 years ago

Bob posted a public tweet regarding silence in response to the article yesterday.
It’s disappointing he can’t follow his own advice privately.
Based on my own interactions with him, he’s highly temperamental and can be really abusive; especially with his phone.
The article confirms that he wrote messages to her and was required to apologize. Hopefully, the content of the messages is made public, so the people who pay his salary at a public institution can make an informed decision about whether or not he should continue interacting with college students.
If you write a book called “The Golden Rules” at least try to follow the original Golden Rule.

marklewis
Reply to  Own It, Bob
4 years ago

Bowman will take a hit to his reputation if “everyone knows” about his rude and inappropriate texts to Caroline B.

No longer the coach of the legendary Phelps, but a Creepy Bob, one of those problem swim coaches.

M C
Reply to  Own It, Bob
4 years ago

“Power in silence.” Wow. There’s no power in silence for victims of abusive behavior. What an incredibly tone deaf and immature response from someone in his position.

Here’s another quote: “Abuse fosters in silence.”

marklewis
Reply to  M C
4 years ago

Looking at his twitter feed, it’s not clear that it was a response to the article.

He has other quotes from Tao Essentials in the past.

Own It, Bob
Reply to  M C
4 years ago

I absolutely agree with MC. Bob is counting on victims staying quiet because the stakes are so high for his reputation; especially when it comes to the implications of Steve Wildon’s post.
The truth is that if you use media outlets to broadcast a version of yourself that isn’t authentic, then you deserve to have that image challenged by those same outlets.
If you continually talk about being “100% Honest” and never accept excuses from anyone, then don’t expect people to accept your excuses when they learn that you’re profiting from information like the content of the messages to Caroline Burckle being withheld from sponsors and employers after this event transpired.
#TimesUp #ActRightly

Steve wildon
4 years ago

The communication/texts were from Hutchison and Bowman. One directed toward Caroline and the other directed toward Clark.

SKETCH
4 years ago

I remember reading the texts….one was directed at Caroline and the other for her brother. Both sexually explicit. Next day he blamed his swimmers for stealing his phone and sending the messages.

Mike
Reply to  SKETCH
4 years ago

So did they steal his phone? I see kids do that to each other regularly. Kinda hard to fake the voice mail though.

Sticksandstones
4 years ago

I’m just curious as to what everyone thinks the proper punishment is for sending a mean/inappropriate text? Pretty sure if the meanest most inappropriate comment any of us has made becomes public record, there would be a lot of people with out jobs if banishment and firing was the punishment!

Taa
Reply to  Sticksandstones
4 years ago

Swim coach to swimmer or teacher to student is big difference. Go ahead and send a picture of your private parts to your female subordinate at work and let us know what happens.

Sticksandstones
Reply to  Taa
4 years ago

Is that what he did? Several people seem to have first hand knowledge of what was sent and yet nothing has been made public yet… No one is condoning poor taste between coach and athlete but what is a “fireable” offense? What is a “ban able” offense? We’re ok giving athletes a thousand strikes but “coaches should know better.” We are all human and make mistakes, some forgivable and some not. Where do we draw the line for coaches?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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