Lawsuit: Ohio State, USA Diving didn't protect victim after reported sexual abuse by coach
Former divers have filed a class action lawsuit against the United States Olympic Committee, USA Diving, the Ohio State University Diving Club, and former coach William Bohonyi alleging sexual abuse, among other claims.
The lawsuit names a former diver who they claim was sexually abused multiple times by then-coach William Bohonyi during training at The Ohio State Diving Club, starting when she was 16 years old.
They accuse Bohoyoni of forcing the victim to engage in sexual acts as a minor, and coerced her into thinking "she was required to perform sexual services in exchange for her continued involvement in diving." The lawsuit claims several of the sexual acts happened on Ohio State's campus, and in Bohonyi's car before and after diving practice.
Lawyers say in July 2014, Ohio State got possession of hundreds of nude pictures involving the victim,who was 16 and 17 at the time, and pictures of her engaged in sexual acts. They say University officials never turned them over to law enforcement, and in the four years University officials have had them, no action has been taken by the University or Ohio State police. Instead, the lawsuit claims, Ohio State did an internal investigation of Bohonyi and recommended he be terminated on August 29, 2014.
"It is surprising and disappointing that The Ohio State University failed to follow required safe sport protocol for the diving club using OSU facilities. Worse yet, after having actual knowledge of the sexual misconduct with hundreds of pictures, OSU still failed to notify law enforcement. This deliberate indifference to protect athletes at OSU is a long running failure of its administration," said Attorney Rex Sharp in a statement.
Full lawsuit below (warning: explicit details)
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.
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.
The lawsuit also claims USA Diving did not report him to law enforcement and did nothing to stop him from continuing to coach, including privately coaching USA diving members. They also say Bohonyi openly coached at Westerville Community Center through at least the winter of 2017-18.
The other diver named in the lawsuit alleges that starting in 2009, that Bohonyi, who was her coach, cultivated an abusive relationship, eventually coercing her into daily sex. She says she was contacted via Facebook in October 2014 by the first diver named in the lawsuit, who confided that she was being coached by Bohonyi and reached out to discuss the sexual relationship. The second plaintiff says she immediately recognized the similarities between the two and their relationships to Bohonyi.
The attorneys working on the lawsuit are asking any other athletes who may have been sexually abused or may have been witnesses to contact them.