Olympian Ariana Kukors Smith Sues U.S.A. Swimming, Claiming It Ignored Sex Abuse

Olympian Ariana Kukors Smith Sues U.S.A. Swimming, Claiming It Ignored Sex Abuse

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Ariana Kukors Smith, an Olympic swimmer who earlier this year accused her former coach of sexually abusing her as a teenager, filed a lawsuit on Monday against him and U.S.A. Swimming, claiming the organization ultimately turned a blind eye to the matter.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Smith, who competed in the 2012 Games in London, alleged that the coach, Sean Hutchison, began grooming her for a relationship when she was 13 years old and was molesting her by age 16.

Ms. Smith, 28, said that U.S.A. Swimming, the organization that governs the sport in the United States, was alerted to the relationship in 2010 but did nothing. In February, U.S.A. Swimming said that it had conducted an investigation into the rumored relationship in 2010, but that Ms. Kukors and Mr. Hutchison, now 46, both “unequivocally denied the existence of a romantic or sexual relationship,” and the case was closed.

On Monday, B. Robert Allard, Ms. Smith’s lawyer, called U.S.A. Swimming’s investigation a “sham.”

Ms. Smith said in the lawsuit that U.S.A. Swimming officials looked the other way because Mr. Hutchison delivered Olympic-level athletes.

“By doing nothing, it enabled Sean to abuse me for a decade,” Ms. Smith said in a statement on Monday.

U.S.A. Swimming responded on Monday, saying: “As expressed earlier this year, we respect Ariana Kukors’ bravery in stepping forward and sharing her story. 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.”

Mr. Hutchison’s lawyer, Brad Meryhew, said on Monday that he and his client had no immediate statement in response to the lawsuit, which was filed in the California Superior Court in Orange County.

At a news conference on Monday, Ms. Smith said the reason she eventually moved to Southern California, where she claims some of the grooming and abuse took place, was because of Mr. Hutchison. She still lives in the state.

In February, in a statement issued by Mr. Meryhew, Mr. Hutchison said that the accusations were false and that he had been in a “committed relationship” with Ms. Smith that began after she was of age. They lived together for more than a year after the 2012 Olympic Games, he said.

Other groups named in the complaint include Western Zone Swimming and Pacific Northwest Swimming, two groups that fall under the U.S.A. Swimming umbrella; King Aquatic Club, a swim club in Washington State owned by Mr. Hutchison where, according to Ms. Smith, she and Mr. Hutchison met; and Aquatic Management Group Inc., a corporation, also in Washington, that Mr. Hutchison helped found.

None of those entities immediately responded to requests for comment.

In February, Michael Brooks, who was the head coach at King Aquatic Club at the time, said that news of the allegations “broke our collective hearts.”

“Our staff is meeting to review this devastating news,” Mr. Brooks said then. “Sean Hutchison has stepped down as an executive with King and has had no direct interaction with our swimmers for a very long time.”

Mr. Brooks said on Monday that he was no longer associated with the club.

Ms. Smith also named Mark Schubert, the head coach of the U.S.A. Swimming national team from 2006 to 2010, in the suit. She claimed that he was aware of the inappropriate relationship between Mr. Hutchison and Ms. Smith, but did not report the abuse. Attempts to reach Mr. Schubert on Monday were unsuccessful.

Mr. Hutchison — who also worked with the Olympic swimmers Margaret Hoelzer, Caroline Burckle and Kara Lynn Joyce — was an assistant coach for the women’s swimming team during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Earlier this year, the United States Department of Homeland Security began investigating Ms. Smith’s claims, an investigation that is “ongoing,” Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for the agency, said on Monday.

Mr. Hutchison has not been charged with any crimes.

“At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual,” Mr. Hutchison said in February.

At Monday’s news conference, Ms. Smith elaborated on the extent of control she claimed Mr. Hutchison exerted over her life. She admitted that she was not able to emotionally grasp what had transpired between them until early this year, saying that the abuse stunted her “sexual maturity.”

“The entire time that we were in a ‘relationship,’ I was 15,” she said. “It was a man who held my Olympic dream in the palm of his hand,” she continued. “He programmed me.”

Ms. Smith’s lawsuit comes just months after Lawrence G. Nassar, a doctor who was convicted of sexually abusing young gymnasts, including Olympians, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct. The revelation of abuse led the U.S.A. Gymnastics board of directors to step down.

Jacey Fortin contributed reporting.

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