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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B1G Daddy

I have way more questions than answers right now.

two tickets

Here’s one question: Is this Bowman and Hutchinson drinking and texting?


And the point of your question is?????

two tickets

Two points. First, incredibly bad judgement on Bowman’s part for 1) associating with Hucthison who was on his way out for sexually inappropriate behavior 2) joining Hutchison in similarly inappropriate behavior. Second, if they were drinking and acting badly, they are probably being held to a different standard than swimmers who drink and act badly together (think Rio).

Makes me wonder if Bowman was pathetically seeking some sort of approval or cred from Hutchison. “We could use my phone, brah” This was certainly poor judgement and possibly impaired judgement. Impaired judgement is not an excuse for bad behavior, it is another instance of bad behavior.


Wow seriously this is what your head created out of this???? 1,000,000 assumptions.


Or maybe Bob Bowman is an adult who makes his own decisions, and he made a lot of really terrible ones and should be punished for them accordingly.


Would like some clarification on which of these alleged actions were Bowman and which were Hutchison. The article doesn’t make that clear.

two tickets

The texts are not provided, but the message is that BOTH were inappropriate.


so I take it these two were hanging out together? Because im only reading about a single incident, and the way the letter reads its as if only one coach got a warning for it. EDIT: the OC Register article linked says they were sent from Bowman’s phone and were from both coaches.


The only thing I saw in another article was that “Bowman and Hutchison were in the same location” and the texts and voice mail “came from Bowman’s phone”. I guess that’s not much of a clarification. I know in a public school situation if you let someone use your phone you are responsible for what comes out of it, but who knows?


This is proof Cox is innocent. Two hours after her suspension is made public Bowman gets metoo’d.

Karma is redirecting the swimming community’s negative attention away from her because it’s unjust.

A$AP Pocky


Bottled water

Sounds like you been drinking a little too much of that tap water bro


I read this and thought I had somehow switched to the other article by mistake

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder 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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