'I needed help': Another abuse scandal hits the US Olympic team as former Olympian files lawsuit against USA Swimming

Clive Rose/Getty ImagesAriana Kukors Smith is a former world champion and world record holder.
  • Ariana Kukors Smith, a member of the 2012 US Olympic swim team and former world record holder, has filed a lawsuit against USA Swimming, her former coach, and several local swimming clubs and organisations.
  • Kukors Smith alleges she “was groomed for sexual abuse” by Hutchinson starting when she was 13 years old and that he began molesting her when she was 16.
  • The lawsuit also claims that USA Swimming was aware of the “open secret” and conducted a “sham investigation” to protect itself and the coach.

Just months after Team USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was convicted on sexual assault charges and was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, a former member of the US Olympic swimming team has filed a lawsuit alleging that her former coach sexually abused her.

Ariana Kukors Smith, who competed at the 2012 London Olympics,filed a lawsuit in California against USA Swimming, her former coach Sean Hutchinson, and several local swimming clubs and organisations.

In the lawsuit, Kukors Smith alleges that she “was groomed for sexual abuse” by Hutchinson starting when she was 13 years old and that he began molesting her when she was 16. The suit also claims that Hutchinson kept Kukors Smith “in a dominated relationship for years” and that USA Swimming was “well aware that Hutchinson was involved in an inappropriate relationship.”

From the lawsuit:

“By the start of 2006, it was widely known within USA SWIMMING leadership’s group that HUTCHISON was engaged in a sexual relationship with plaintiff, then 16 years old. Despite the ‘open secret’ status of the relationship between HUTCHISON and plaintiff as of the 2006 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships and the 2007 World Championships (where MARK SCHUBERT was the Head US Swim Coach) no one reported this reasonable suspicion of child abuse or endangerment to the authorities, no one did anything to protect plaintiff as a minor from inappropriate grooming and ultimate molestation, and no one did anything to repudiate HUTCHISON’s conduct to halt and/or arrest the ongoing trauma which continued well into plaintiff’s adulthood.”

“This lawsuit is about holding people accountable who should have protected a 15-year-old girl,”Kukors Smith told media. “I needed help, and there were people in positions of power that could have helped me.”

USA Swimming hired a private investigator in 2010 to investigate the rumoured relationship, according to ESPN. Kukors Smith was 21 at the time, and Hutchison was 39. According to the report, both the swimmer and the coach denied the relationship at the time and USA Swimming “closed the investigation without finding any misconduct.”

The lawsuit refers to that investigation as a “sham.”

From the lawsuit:

“[USA Swimming] engaged in the sham investigation designed to protect itself and/or HUTCHISON, disseminated false information surrounding that ‘investigation,’ and never reported this ‘reasonable suspicion’ of child abuse to the authorities for a proper investigation by those experienced in collecting evidence.”

USA Swimming released a statement saying that it was working with Kukors Smith’s legal team.

“As expressed earlier this year, we respect Ariana Kukors’ bravery in stepping forward and sharing her story,” USA Swimming wrote. “We have been in regular contact with her legal team over the last several months and will continue to work with them and Ariana through this process.”

Hutchinson, released a statement in February when the allegations were first made public. He described his relationship with Kukors Smith as a “committed relationship” that did not occur until after the 2012 Olympics and that it lasted more than a year.

“I absolutely deny having any sexual or romantic relationship with her before she was old enough to legally make those decisions for herself,” Hutchinson said in the statement to CNN. “Prior to that time, I did nothing to ‘groom’ her.”

Kukors Smith was a world champion and world record holder in the 200-meter individual medley and a world champion in the 100-meter individual medley. She finished fifth in the 200 IM at the 2012 London Olympics.

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