Congressional committees have been looking into the issue of sexual abuse in Olympic sports, with a particular focus on gymnastics. Now stories of alleged abuse are emerging in swimming. Last month, former Olympic athlete Ariana Kukors Smith sued her former coach, Sean Hutchinson, for allegedly abusing her. She also sued USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee because she says they failed to protect her.
Today, there are more than 150 coaches on USA Swimming’sÂ permanently banned list. Almost all are men, most of whom the organization has deemed to have violated its code of conduct, including a section that prohibits “any inappropriate sexually oriented behavior or action.”
Chris DeSantis, a swim coach in New Jersey, says the actual number is probably much higher than the public list would suggest: “I would estimate the actual number of coaches who have done something that they should be banned for is north of 1,000.”
Hutchison, the coach, denies Kukors Smith’s allegation. “I absolutely deny having any sexual or romantic relationship with her before she was old enough to legally make those decisions for herself. Prior to that time, I did nothing to ‘groom’ her,” Hutchison said in a statement,Â according to theÂ The Seattle Times. “I deeply regret that she would make these wild allegations all these years later.”
USA Swimming did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Earlier this year, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey sent a letter to its members reading, in part “Let me be clear: USA Swimming does not tolerate sexual abuse or misconduct, and I assure you that this organization is facing this extremely serious issue with one very clear goal â€“ protecting children and athletes.”
Listen to NPR