USA-Swimming has cleared FAST Center of Excellence coach Sean Hutchison of having any sort of inappropriate relationship with any of his athletes after reviewing the findings of a private investigator.
The rumors first came to light in December, when it was initially announced that Hutchison would be leaving the FAST program to start his own club (an announcement that was later rescinded and denied both by Hutchison as well as Bill Jewell, the head of FAST). In their reporting of his departure, the Washington Post had quoted both Jewell and Hutchison as recognizing the existence of the rumor.
We were skeptical as to the validity of the rumors that Hutchison had an inappropriate or romantic sexual relationship with one of his athletes (though the alleged athlete was an adult, it still would have been a violation to the new USA-Swimming Code of Conduct), because the new reporting system that is in place makes it hard to believe that no official report would be filed in a case like this. This is especially true in an environment where most of the athletes are adults, and therefore the situation would not involve quite the same level of traumatic intimidation as it would in the case of child abuse.
This new system, though, is at the same time supposed to protect coaches from the unsubstantiated rumor-mill, and there are many who are clamoring for the identity of the original accuser. While the primary goal of the new sexual abuse system is to protect the swimmers, it must also have the goal of protecting coaches from these sorts of damages, especially now that our community is hyper-sensitive to the issue.
The USA-Swimming release, published by SwimmingWorld.com, did not specifically name the swimmer that was supposedly involved, though it does indicate that the accusation was accompanied by a specific name. It also went into no details about what the exact nature of the allegations were.
Though there are still a lot of questions about what happened at FAST, and specifically why Jewell indicated to the Washington Post that Hutchison was leaving, then later dismissed it all as a media-fueled rumor, but this at least clears up any questions as to whether or not there was any inappropriate behavior by Hutchison, and should help clear his reputation.
The following is the full, unedited press-relase:
A full investigation by an independent private investigator found no evidence that Coach Sean Hutchison had an inappropriate relationship with an athlete.
USA Swimming initiated the investigation after published news referenced rumors of inappropriate behavior by the nationally-recognized coach toward an adult athlete. The investigator was hired by USA Swimming’s legal counsel.
“While it is not our policy to investigate in the absence of a formal complaint, we acted in the best interest of our athletes, coaches and organization to conduct a full investigation into this situation,” said Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming’s executive director. “Additionally, after we received the report, we felt it was important to correct the false rumors.”
“We value the well-being of all of our members and false statements or rumors can be extremely detrimental to our athlete protection efforts,” said Susan Woessner, USA Swimming’s Athlete Protection Officer. “We want to encourage those with credible and specific information to always come forward, and those who would spread false rumors disrespect this effort.”
The summary of the investigator’s report reads in part, “there was no evidence to substantiate the existence of an inappropriate sexual or romantic relationship between Coach Hutchison and the athlete … This is the same conclusion reached by the investigator hired by the Fullerton Aquatic Sports Team.”
USA Swimming has augmented its Athlete Protection efforts over the past year, adding an anonymous reporting structure, expanding the criminal background check requirement, committing to requiring athlete protection education for its members and requiring members to report sexual misconduct when specific and credible information has been received. It is also a violation of USA Swimming’s Code of Conduct to knowingly file a false report on the topic. This is a partial list. To read about all USA Swimming’s Athlete Protection efforts, visit www.usaswimming.org/protect.