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USA Swimming has reached a settlement agreement with a former Olympian, resolving claims that the organization failed to protect her from sexual abuse by a coach when she was a minor.
The settlement was announced in a joint press release issued by USA Swimming and attorneys representing Ariana Kukors Smith, a world champion and 2012 Olympics participant. The release was reported by Swimswam.com on March 11.
Kukors Smith first filed the lawsuit in 2017, indicating she was sexually abused by former coach Sean Hutchinson while she trained with him at KING Aquatic Club in Washington. She previously reached a settlement with another defendant in the lawsuit, Marck Schubert, who is the former USA Swimming national team director.
The sex abuse settlement appears to resolve the case, according to the press release. However, details of the out-of-court deal were not released.
The lawsuit was one of several sex abuse claims leveled against Olympic sports organizations in recent years. In 2018, a congressional report accused the U.S. Olympic Committee of prioritizing winning and profits over the safety of young athletes in the wake of hundreds of claims of abuse filed against former Olympic gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar.
The committee’s investigation involved documents and interviews with USOC, Michigan State University, which employed Nassar, and all 48 National Governing Bodies (NGBs), which oversee each U.S. Olympic sport. The committee also indicates it spoke with dozens of abuse survivors, as well as advocates and others. Investigators found similar stories of a failing system, and said its findings should be of concern to Olympic athletes, amateur athletes and parents.
Similar findings were published by an independent investigation group hired by USOC. Those investigators reported that they found that Nassar was able to commit thousands of sexual assaults due to an environment that allowed his predatory nature to thrive.
Nassar will spend the rest of his life in jail, having received a federal sentence of 60 years on child pornography charges. He has also received two additional sentences; including one for 40 to 175 years, and another of 40 to 125 years from verdicts in two Michigan courts.
Kukors Smith’s attorney indicates at least 10 more sex abuse lawsuits will be filed against USA Swimming this year. The group was warned of Hutchinson’s behavior years ago, and exonerated him in an investigation in 2010.
However, in 2018, the U.S. Center for SafeSport banned Hutchinson for life due to his sexual relationships with athletes he had trained.
There have also been a number of sexual abuse lawsuits brought against USA Diving for alleged incidents of assault by coaches in that Olympic sport as well.