A former Olympic swimmer claims to have received “inappropriate and suggestive” messages in 2011 from a phone belonging to Bob Bowman, the longtime coach of Michael Phelps and former head coach and CEO of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, according to a newspaper report.
The Orange County Register reported that Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle, 32, alleges that she received the text messages and voicemail, which she said were sent from former U.S. national team coaches Bowman and Sean Hutchison using Bowman’s phone.
Burckle told the newspaper she found the May 2011 messages from the coaches “aggressive” and said she had been “haunted” by the incident. She had retired from swimming less than a year earlier.
Bowman has coached Phelps, who grew up in Towson, since the swimmer was 11, and the two are friends and business partners. Bowman served as CEO of the Baltimore swimming club beginning in 2008 and left in 2015 to become head coach of Arizona State University’s men’s and women’s swimming teams. Bowman also was the head coach of the 2016 Olympic swimming team.
USA Swimming national team director Frank Busch wrote in a June 2011 letter to Bowman that it was important he “understand the severity of this situation,” according to the Register. The newspaper quoted Busch in the letter as saying that a report of the incident would “remain on file with National Team.”
Bowman apologized to Burckle, she told the newspaper.
Burckle, Bowman, Busch and an attorney for Hutchison did not immediately respond to messages Sunday from The Baltimore Sun seeking comment. A spokesman for Phelps’ sports agency, Octagon, also did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
“In 2011, USA Swimming was made aware of inappropriate texts sent to an adult former member athlete by a member coach,” USA Swimming said in an emailed statement to The Sun in response to questions about the incident. “The organization does not condone this type of communication no matter the relationship between the parties.
“The issue was addressed by USA Swimming, and warning letters were issued to the offending parties, which also included a non-athlete member in the presence of the coach,” the statement said.
Burckle told the Register that the situation “tainted my relationship with my sport.” She said she came forward because she wants the next generation of athletes to “feel safe and empowered in their sport.”
In February, another former swimmer accused Hutchison of sexually abusing her for years, according to published accounts. Hutchison has denied thosee allegations.