A Maryland swim coach was arrested on child abuse and sex offense charges Thursday morning after a former student accused him of engaging her in “sex acts” when she was a child, authorities said.
Police have charged 53-year-old Christopher Thomas Huott, founder and owner of the Maryland Suburban Swim Club, in connection with the allegations.
A woman approached police last month alleging that Huott had “engaged her in sex acts on numerous occasions while she was a minor in his care,” according to a statement by Montgomery County police.
The abuse started in the mid 1980s, when the victim was 7, and continued for several years, according to police allegations filed in court records.
Detectives are worried that there may be more victims “due to Huott’s position . . . and his access to children,” Montgomery police said.
Huott founded the Maryland Suburban Swim Club in 1986, according to the organization’s Web site.
USA Swimming, the governing body for many swim clubs across the country, has been working to enact reforms since five years ago, as reports of young athletes being abused began emerging more frequently, said Tom Ugast, chief executive of Nation’s Capital Swimming Inc. in the District.
“Back in the 1980s, there weren’t a lot of protections in place for coaches in terms of background checks,” said Ugast, whose swim organization is one of the largest in the nation with about 1,500 athletes and 70 coaches.
But now, coaches for clubs sanctioned by USA Swimming must undergo annual background checks and take athlete protection courses “to make sure all of them know what is proper and how to look for any predators that may be around us,” Ugast said.
USA Swimming first learned of Huott’s arrest Thursday, said Karen Linhart, the organization’s spokeswoman.
The group has a “Safe Sport Program” aimed at increasing awareness and reducing the risk of abuse in the sport, and the organization has “no tolerance for violations” of USA Swimming’s code of conduct, Linhart said.
“We had no prior knowledge of any inappropriate behavior but we are looking into the matter,” Linhart said in a statement. “USA Swimming is deeply committed to the safety and welfare of all its members.”
Huott is being held on a $50,000 bond. Montgomery police are asking anyone with information on this incident or possible others to call 240-773-5400.
Liz Clarke and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.