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.