SEATTLE – A hometown Olympian swimmer has filed a civil lawsuit against her former coach and several others, claiming negligence when they allowed her coach to allegedly sexually abuse her when she was a minor.
Ariana Kukors Smith, a native of Puget Sound, is also suing USA Swimming, the national governing body of the sport, and several local swimming associations for not stopping the abuse she says stole her childhood.
“During that decade he stole many things from me, including my swimming career, my college experience, friendships, my virginity and, ultimately, my Olympic dream,” said Smith.
Smith told reporters during a press conference Monday morning that parents should also know how to protect young athletes who may be easy targets for sex predators.
“It was a man who held my Olympic dream in the palm of his hand, who said that I couldn’t swim fast for anyone else, I could only swim fast for him,” said Smith.
Smith went on to compete around the world and eventually at the 2012 London Olympics but she claims her coach, Sean Hutchison, groomed her for abuse that began in her early teens.
“When he began abusing me when I was 15 years old, at that point my relationship and sexual maturity was stunted,” she said.
Hutchison has denied the abuse allegations and called them consensual when Smith first shared her accusations publicly in early 2018.
Monday morning, the Olympian and her attorney announced a civil suit against Hutchison, USA Swimming and local organizations, claiming they were negligent by allowing the abuse.
“We do have evidence of other victims,” said Smith’s attorney, Robert Allard.
“We saw the same process in USA Gymnastics,” former prosecutor Ray Medoza said. “It took one victim coming forward.”
The once-renowned Olympic gymnastics sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to more than 40 years behind bars after dozens of women say he abused them over the course of decades.
Smith and her attorney believe the same culture is afoot at USA Swimming.
“USA Swimming needs to put policies and procedures in place that address those issues: one-on-one interactions, communications policies, social media,” said former police detective Michael Leininger. “Many people don’t know these coaches are communicating with the athletes, who knows what they’re saying.”
“I needed help and there were people in positions of power who could have helped me,” Smith said.
Smith says parents can also play a role in protecting young athletes – all to make sure nobody else falls victim to abuse by a coach who is supposed to protect them.
“My advice to parents would just be continue to ask questions, continue to be around, continue to observe,” she said.
Hutchison has not been charged with a crime.
USA Swimming responded to Q13 News’ request for comment by saying in part: “We respect Ariana Kukors’ bravery in stepping forward and sharing her story. We have been in regular contact with her legal team over the last several months and will continue to work with them and Ariana through this process.”
Q13 news also reached out to local swimming organizations named in the civil suit for comment but did not immediately hear back.