Top USA Swimming official quits over failure to disclose
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A top official for USA Swimming who was part of an investigation of a coach for sexual misconduct has resigned for not disclosing that she once kissed the coach.
Susan Woessner was the senior director of Safe Sport for the national governing body. She says in 2007 she kissed Sean Hutchison, who was then a coach with the organization. Hutchinson has been accused by ex-Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors of sexual abuse.
In her letter of resignation, Susan Woessner said she worked as a database coordinator for USA Swimming from 2004-07 and during that time kissed Hutchison “on a single occasion.” She said apart from that there was no romantic or sexual relationship.
Woessner left USA Swimming shortly afterward to pursue a master’s degree. She returned to the organization in 2010 as athlete protection officer — now called director of Safe Sport.
USA Swimming hired a private investigator late that year to look into a possible relationship between Kukors and Hutchison in 2010. The organization said it closed the investigation without finding misconduct.
Kukors, a former world champion, alleged this month that her former coach sexually abused her for a decade starting when she was a minor. Hutchison has denied the accusations. He acknowledged they were in a relationship after the 2012 Olympics, when she was 23 and he was 41.
Some have criticized the 2010 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.
Robert Allard, a California attorney representing Ariana Kukors, said he sent a letter to USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey on Monday demanding that Woessner and Pat Hogan be fired. Hogan resigned Thursday as USA Swimming’s managing director of club development.
Allard said in an interview Friday that he had information that Woessner was involved in a sexual relationship with Hutchison at the time she oversaw the investigation into rumors of a relationship between Hutchison and Kukors.
Woessner “is as guilty as anybody for the scandal that has afflicted USA Swimming” because she has been involved in misrepresentation and covering up for sexually abusive coaches, Allard said.
“Her interest was first and foremost with USA Swimming and protecting their interest, and a distant second was the safety and welfare of swimmers,” he said.
Speaking for Kukors, Allard said that “she sees it (the resignations) as a much welcome start to the process.”
“The new president spoke about zero tolerance. We should have zero tolerance for those who have lied and covered up for pedophiles,” Allard said.
USA Swimming CEO and President Tim Hinchey said his group is “committed to carrying on with the efforts Susan led, supported by the board of directors and the organization, to create a safe environment for children and swimming families across the country.”
Woessner’s resignation follows a letter sent by USA Swimming to its members saying the organization doesn’t tolerate sexual misconduct. The letter was in response to reports the organization had failed to address hundreds of cases of sexual abuse going back decades.
This week, an investigation by the Southern California News Group 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.
Woessner was responsible for some decisions to not pursue action against coaches accused of sexual abuse, the report said.
Hinchey acknowledged that USA Swimming’s system of uncovering sexual abuse is “not flawless.” However, in the letter Hinchey promised 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 added since 2010 the organization has created a Safe Sport program, updated its conduct code, mandated abuse prevention training and created a public list of individuals banned for sexual misconduct.
Associated Press writer Phuong Le in Seattle contributed to this report.