Two former divers are suing USA Diving, accusing the national governing body of ignoring or obstructing inquiries into allegations that a coach sexually abused them when they were young athletes dreaming of Olympic glory.
The federal lawsuit, filed last week, names Indianapolis-based USA Diving, Inc., the Ohio State University Diving Club and Will Bohonyi.
The suit alleges that Bohonyi, who had coached at the Ohio State University Diving Club and was fired in 2014, coerced and forced the divers into frequent sex, telling them, “You owe me this,” The Indianapolis Star reported.
Calls to a telephone listing for Bohonyi’s most recent Columbus, Ohio, address went unanswered.
USA Diving declined to comment Monday, with a spokeswoman saying that, “Providing a safe environment for our members is of tremendous importance to USA Diving, and we take these matters very seriously.”
Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said the school opened an administrative investigation in 2014 after learning about the allegations against Bohonyi, and he was fired in August 2014.
The university said Bohonyi was hired as a part-time, paid assistant diving coach in September 2012 and remained in that role until his termination.
Bohonyi has been on USA Diving’s list of banned coaches since 2015, but the lawsuit alleges that action didn’t happen until six months after Ohio State University investigated one of the women’s allegations and fired him. The report, the suit contends, was provided to USA Diving.
During that time period, it alleges that Bohonyi forced that girl — an Olympic hopeful — to perform sex acts numerous times while she was a minor.
She also sent him hundreds of naked photos, the suit alleges, saying that Bohonyi “psychologically coerced” her into believing she “was required to perform sexual services in exchange for her continued involvement in diving.”
“He preyed on her age, vulnerability, and dreams of becoming an Olympian, and used the power structure and imbalance of power (coach/athlete) to make her believe she was required to sexually service him in exchange for her involvement in diving for Team USA,” the suit alleges.
The suit also alleges that Ohio State has had possession of the naked photos for almost four years and “no action has been taken.”
Ohio State said it notified campus police, USA Diving and Franklin County Children’s Services, as well as law enforcement in Montgomery County, Maryland, where the lawsuit says teammates discovered the diver’s sexual relationship with Bohonyi at a national competition.
Johnson said Monday that a campus police investigation was opened in August 2014 and then closed at the complainant’s request before being reopened this January, also at the former diver’s request.
He said university police are working with the county prosecutor’s office in that pending investigation.
Allegations of sexual misconduct also are the focus of a separate, independent investigation pending about a now-dead Ohio State team doctor accused of groping male athletes and other students decades ago.
The physician, Richard Strauss, worked at Ohio State for two decades before retiring in 1998. The university said allegations against Strauss have been raised by former athletes from 14 sports. The independent investigators are reviewing those claims, as well as whether the university knew of concerns about Strauss.
The other diver named in the lawsuit alleges that starting in 2009, Bohonyi, who was her coach, cultivated an abusive relationship, eventually coercing her into daily sex.