Former US Olympian Kukors accuses coach of abuse

LOS ANGELES: Former US Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors has accused a former national team coach of sexually abusing her when she was 16.

Kukors, who won a world title in 2009 and represented the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games, said coach Sean Hutchison, who was an assistant coach for USA Swimming's 2008 Olympic team, began "grooming" her for a sexual relationship when she was 13.

"I've realized that stories like my own are too important to go unwritten," Kukors, now 28, said in a statement on Wednesday that was published in multiple media outlets.

Hutchison responded on Thursday, saying in a statement published by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other newspapers that he had a "committed relationship" with an adult Kukors, who lived with him for some time after the 2012 London Games.

"At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual," Hutchison said in a statement provided by his attorney, Brad Meryhew, to the online newspaper. "I absolutely deny having any sexual or romantic relationship with her before she was old enough to legally make those decisions for herself."

Kukors's charges come in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked USA Gymnastics and saw former national team doctor Larry Nassar sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.

At least 265 female athletes, including several Olympic gold medalists, said the 54-year-old Nassar abused them over a period of two decades.

The US Olympic Committee has said it will appoint an independent investigator to probe the organization and USA Gymnastics to determine who knew what and when in that case.

Now USA Swimming is under the microscope. In 2010, they investigated a report of an inappropriate relationship between the then-21-year-old Kukors and Hutchison.

In a statement on Thursday, the governing body said their probe then found no evidence, with Kukors herself denying the existence of a romantic or sexual relationship.

The governing body said that Kukors' comments this week were the first indication they had that Hutchison abused her when she was a minor, and they voiced support for her and other athletes "in their quest to break their silence and confront their horrific experiences." — AFP