Head of USA Swimming says no tolerance for sexual misconduct
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The new head of USA Swimming has sent a letter to members of the national governing body saying the organization doesn’t tolerate sexual abuse or misconduct.
The letter signed by president and CEO Tim Hinchey went out to member clubs and individuals 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,” he wrote.
This month, former Olympian and world champion swimmer Ariana Kukors alleged publicly that her former coach Sean Hutchison sexually abused her for a decade starting when she was a minor. Hutchison has denied the allegations. He acknowledged they were in a relationship after the 2012 Olympics, when she was 23 and he was 41.
“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 the letter.
USA Swimming hired a private investigator to look into speculation of a relationship between Kukors and Hutchison in 2010. The organization said it closed the investigation without finding any misconduct after they and others denied the relationship.
Some have criticized the investigation as insufficient. It followed other sex abuse scandals in the sport that led to lifetime bans. USA Swimming said Kukors’ public statement was the first it learned of the underage abuse allegations.
This week, the Southern California News Group conducted an extensive investigation that found USA Swimming repeatedly balked at overhauling a culture in which “the sexual abuse of underage swimmers by their coaches and others in positions of power within the sport was commonplace and even accepted by top officials and coaches,” resulting in hundreds of young victims.
“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 acknowledged that USA Swimming’s system of uncovering sexual abuse “is not flawless.” However, in the letter Hinchey vowed to work with survivors, the U.S. Center for Safe Sport and law enforcement to hold wrongdoers accountable and remove them from the governing body.
He encouraged USA Swimming members to report any suspicious activity that might violate the group’s code of conduct.
“We simply cannot assume that those being abused will voluntarily come forward, even if given the opportunity to do so in a confidential manner,” Hinchey wrote.
He added since 2010 the organization has created a Safe Sport program, updated its code of conduct, mandated abuse prevention training and created a public list of individuals banned for sexual misconduct violations.
Last June, Hinchey succeeded 20-year president Chuck Wielgus, who died in April after a long battle with cancer.