USA Swimming is currently under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for allegedly covering up sexual abuse allegations that athletes have made against coaches. The organization is also being investigated for allegedly concealing assets and engaging in an insurance scheme that brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in rebates.
The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI have been presented evidence to a federal grand jury for the past year. Prosecutors are investigating to determine if swimmers and other Olympic athletes have been pressured to submit to sexual abuse by coaches and avoid reporting it in order to preserve their standing on their teams.
According to the Wall Street Journal, witnesses have told federal investigators that an extrajudicial system existed within USA Swimming, which amounts to systemic coverups of sexual abuse allegations against coaches. That system no longer exists today, as the Olympic sex abuse scandals of 2016 and 2017 have led to federal law requiring all allegations of child abuse to be immediately reported to law enforcement and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
2012 Olympian swimmer Ariana Kukors Smith filed a civil lawsuit against USA Swimming in 2018, which alleged that major officials in the organization’s governing body were aware that she was allegedly sexually abused by coach Sean Hutchison. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges, these officials collaborated in a cover-up of the abuse.
According to the lawsuit, Hutchison began grooming Smith at age 13 and started sexually abusing her at age 16. Smith says that officials were told of the abuse in 2005 and that Hutchison had engaged in sexual misconduct with other minors. However, they failed to act on this information, which allowed the abuse to continue.
Smith’s lawsuit also alleges that USA Swimming officials had a secret agreement to protect Hutchison from required background-check procedures. USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, former vice president, and board member Murray Stevens, and former Club Development Director Pat Hogan are all named in the suit for allegedly being involved in the cover-up.
Attorney contributor Laurence Banville and the team of sex abuse victims attorneys are offering free consultations to victims of sexual abuse in the USA Swimming organization. Here are some thoughts from Laurence on the legal rights of these victims:
Over the past few years, Olympic sports organizations have come under scrutiny for failing to protect their athletes from sexual predators. In the USA Gymnastics scandal, former team doctor Larry Nassar was found guilty of sexually abusing hundreds of gymnasts, and officials within that organization have also been charged with failing to stop the abuse despite being aware of it.
The trauma caused by sexual abuse can stick with victims for their entire lives. These heinous crimes must be taken seriously and those who have the power to stop these predators must do so by reporting any allegations of abuse to law enforcement immediately. In the case of abuse in Olympic sports, these allegations must also be reported to the US Center for Safesport.
The criminal justice system plays an important role in helping victims find justice by making sure sexual predators are punished for their crimes and removed from their positions before they can continue abusing innocent victims. However, the legal options for victims often don’t end here. In many cases, survivors of sexual abuse in Olympic sports organizations may have grounds for a lawsuit.
If you or someone close to you is a survivor of sexual abuse in USA Swimming, there are attorneys prepared to help you find justice.