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Ariana Kukors, Olympic swimmer, accuses coach Sean Hutchison of sexual abuse

Ariana Kukors, here competing in the 2012 Olympics, accused her former coach sexually abusing her, starting when she was 16.
Ariana Kukors, here competing in the 2012 Olympics, accused her former coach sexually abusing her, starting when she was 16. (Lee Jin-Man/AP)

A 2012 Olympic swimmer has accused her prominent former swim coach of sexually abusing her, a day after federal authorities searched the coach’s home for evidence he took sexually explicit photographs of her when she was underage.

Ariana Kukors, 28, said in a news release issued late Wednesday evening by her attorneys that her former coach Sean Hutchison, 46, began sexually assaulting her when she was 16. Kukors went public with her accusations the day after officers with Homeland Security searched Hutchison’s Seattle home, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“I never thought I would share my story because I was able to leave a horrible monster and build a life I could have never imagined for myself,” Kukors said in a statement. “But in time, I’ve realized that stories like my own are too important to go unwritten.”

Hutchison, who has not been charged with a crime, released a statement through his attorney Thursday denying Kukors’s allegations. After the 2012 Olympics, when Kukors was 23 and Hutchinson was 41, the two dated and lived together for more than a year, Hutchison said.

“At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual,” Hutchison said. When he and Kukors dated, Hutchison said, Kukors’s younger sister lived with them for several months, and Kukors’s mother visited them regularly.

“I deeply regret that she would make these wild allegations all these years later,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison was an assistant coach on the 2008 U.S. Olympic swim team in Beijing, and head coach of 2009 U.S. team at the world championships. Kukors, a former world record-holder in the 200-meter individual medley, was among his top pupils, along with Olympic medalists Margaret Hoelzer and Katie Hoff.

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In 2010, Hutchison resigned his post at a training center for several top American swimmers, after allegations arose he was engaged in an improper sexual relationship with one of his swimmers. Hutchison denied the allegations. USA Swimming, the Olympic national governing body for the sport, hired a private investigator to look into the allegations, and in 2011, the organization announced it had found no evidence of an improper relationship.

USA Swimming issued a statement Thursday morning that read, in part, “Ariana Kukors’ recent public statement marked the first time USA Swimming learned of the allegations that Sean Hutchison sexually abused Ariana when she was a minor. . . .

“In 2010, USA Swimming became aware of a rumored relationship between Hutchison and then 21-year-old Ariana via a third-party. Based on the information, USA Swimming retained an independent private investigator and conducted a full investigation into the rumor and the possible Code of Conduct violation.

“During the USA Swimming investigation, both Ariana and Hutchison, as well as Ariana’s sister, Emily, unequivocally denied the existence of a romantic or sexual relationship.”

In a news release, Bob Allard, Kukors’s attorney and an outspoken critic of Olympic sports organizations’ handling of sex abuse prevention, accused USA Swimming of failing to act on suspicions of abuse.

“USA Swimming had notice in 2010 that Sean Hutchison was involved in an inappropriate coach-athlete relationship with Ariana and took no actions to protect her or other swimmers,” Allard said.

USA Swimming officials did not immediately reply to emailed requests to comment Thursday morning.

Kukors, a Seattle-area native, claims Hutchison began grooming her for a sexual relationship when she was 13, and he was her coach at King Aquatic Club in Washington. Her allegations come as America’s Olympic sports organizations are beset by accusations from victims of former USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, and members of Congress, of failing to protect aspiring young Olympians from sexual abuse.

USA Swimming was among several Olympic sports organizations to receive a letter recently from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce requesting information about sex abuse prevention.

Read more coverage:

Sex abuse in Olympic sports is not a new problem. Why does it keep happening?

An athlete accused her coach of sex abuse. Olympic officials stayed on the sideline.

Twenty years of failure: Many groups missed chances to stop Larry Nassar