Los Angeles - Former Olympian Ariana Kukors Smith filed a
lawsuit on Monday against USA Swimming, accusing the governing body of knowing she
was being sexually abused by her coach and covering it up.
Kukors Smith alleged in the lawsuit, filed in Orange County
Superior Court near Los Angeles, that Sean Hutchison, her coach at a swim club
near Seattle, began grooming her for a sexual relationship at age 13, touching
and kissing her when she was 16 and having sex with her when she was 17.
"USA Swimming officials secretly agreed Hutchison
should be specifically protected from the background check process due to the
fact that pervasive rumours of his inappropriate sexually motivated behaviour toward
minors such as the plaintiff would inevitably surface through contacts with
prior employers," Kukors Smith said in the filing.
In light of the success of his pupils, USA Swimming
officials reasoned "they should all 'look the other way' when it came to
Hutchison's suspected childhood sexual abuse," the lawsuit said.
Hutchison has denied the claims Kukors Smith, now 28, first
made online earlier this year, when USA Swimming says it first learned of them.
Kukors Smith won the 200m individual medley at the 2009
World Championships in Rome and was fifth in the event at the 2012 London
"By the start of 2006, it was widely known within USA
Swimming's leadership group that Hutchison was engaged in a sexual relationship
with plaintiff, then 16 years old," Kukors Smith said in the lawsuit.
"Despite the 'open secret' status of the
relationship... 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."
Kukors Smith filed the lawsuit against USA Swimming, former
US national team director Mark Schubert plus Hutchison, a company owned by
Hutchison and King Aquatic Club, Hutchison's former club near Seattle.