LOS ANGELES: The new chief executive of USA Swimming responded Thursday to a report of widespread sexual abuse in the sport with a letter telling members the national governing body doesn’t tolerate such misconduct.
The letter, signed by the president and CEO Tim Hinchey, was sent to individual members and clubs on Thursday.
“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 — protecting children and athletes,” Hinchey said.
Former Olympian and world champion swimmer Ariana Kukors went public this month with allegations that her former coach Sean Hutchison sexually abused her for a decade, starting when she was a minor.
Hutchison has denied the accusation, saying he and Kukors were in a relationship after the 2012 London Olympics when she was 23 and he was 41.
‘Never happens again’
Last week, the Orange County Register newspaper published a report based on “thousands of pages of documents” alleging that USA Swimming officials failed to adequately investigate “hundreds” of abuse allegations.
“While we disagree on several of the reported statements and many of the conclusions in recent media reports, members were failed, and we are doing everything we can to make sure it never happens again,” Hinchey wrote.
He vowed to work with survivors, the US Center for Safe Sport and law enforcement to hold abusers accountable and remove them from USA Swimming.
But Hinchey’s letter came the same day that Susan Woessner — USA Swimming’s senior director of Safe Sport — resigned.
A statement from the governing body said Woessner had recently informed them of a “personal interaction” with Hutchison in 2007, when she worked as the organization’s times database coordinator.
Woessner said in her resignation letter that they had kissed.
She was named the body’s Athlete Protection Officer in 2010 — and did not reveal the interaction with Hutchison before USA Swimming’s investigation into his possible inappropriate behaviour with Kukors.
In her letter of resignation, Woessner said the probe was conducted by an outside investigator, but she offered her resignation to “keep the focus” on the efforts of her colleagues in protecting young athletes.
USA Swimming has previously faced charges of failing to deal with inappropriate behaviour by coaches.
In 2010, a television news investigation revealed myriad cases of sexual misconduct of various forms, revelations that finally led to more than 100 coaches being banned for life from working for USA Swimming or its affiliated clubs.
“We will not shy away from acknowledging or supporting survivors of abuse, and we will strive to ensure that there is never a lapse of a support system again,” Hinchey said in his letter.
The latest allegations follow the sexual abuse scandal that rocked USA Gymnastics and saw former national team doctor Larry Nassar sentenced to lengthy prison terms that will most likely see him spending the rest of his life behind bars.
At least 265 women gymnasts, including several Olympic gold medalists, said the 54-year-old Nassar abused them over a period of two decades.