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Lawsuit: USA Swimming Covered Up For Coach Accused Of Sexual Abuse

Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors Smith poses for a photo an interview in Seattle. Kukors Smith sued USA Swimming on Monday, saying the sport’s national governing body knew her former coach sexually abused her as a minor and covered it up.
Photo: Ted S. Warren (AP)

Ariana Kukors Smith sued USA Swimming as well as several other swimming organizations on Monday for what she says was their role in protecting the coach Smith has accused of sexually abusing her. The lawsuit was filed in Orange County Superior Court and claims three causes of action: sexual abuse of a minor, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In a blog post earlier this year, Smith detailed how she says she was groomed, then abused by coach Sean Hutchison, starting when she was 13 years old. The lawsuit talks about that as well; it says that, in 2005, Hutchison put one of Smith’s hands on his pants “to feel his erect penis.” In 2006, at the USA National Swimming Championships, Hutchison “put his hand inside plaintiff’s pants and sexually molested her,” according to the lawsuit.


But the complaint, which does not ask for a specific monetary reward, mostly focuses on steps that Smith believes were taken by USA Swimming’s leadership to protect Hutchison. According to the lawsuit, USA Swimming officials “secretly agreed that Hutchison should be specifically protected from the background check process due to fact that pervasive rumors of his inappropriate sexually motivated behavior towards minors such as the plaintiff would inevitably surface through contacts with prior employers.” USA Swimming did this, per the lawsuit, by having lawyers “review” all screenings done under the auspices of attorney-client privilege.

Screenshot: Lawsuit

Even when the national team coach at the time, Schubert, said something, USA Swimming did nothing, according to the lawsuit.

Screenshot: Lawsuit

The investigation by Susan Woessner didn’t go very far. The lawsuit claims it consisted of just short interviews with Hutchison and Smith, and both denied the abuse. Smith, in her lawsuit, said she denied it because she still was in the abusive relationship with Hutchison. Woessner resigned earlier this year after admitting she had kissed Hutchison in 2007.

Screenshot: Lawsuit

In a statement, USA Swimming said it “will continue to work” with Smith’s legal team regarding her lawsuit. Hutchison has previously issued a statement denying that he abused Smith.

The full lawsuit can be read below.

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Diana Moskovitz

Senior editor at Deadspin

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