Divers open class-action suit vs. USA Diving for ignoring sexual abuse

Two former divers are bringing a class-action lawsuit against USA Diving, accusing the organization of ignoring or obstructing sexual abuse allegations.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday and accuses former Ohio State University Diving Club coach Will Bohonyi of coercing two divers into having sex with him. The suit also names Bohonyi and Ohio State as defendants.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs told the Indianapolis Star that other divers were coming forward with allegations and that USA Diving was "worse than gymnastics, worse than swimming," referring to rampant sexual abuse that has affected both sports in recent years.

"This is just the beginning for USA Diving," attorney Jon Little told the newspaper.

In a statement responding to the allegations Monday, a USA Diving spokeswoman said that "providing a safe environment for our members is of tremendous importance to USA Diving, and we take these matters very seriously. USA Diving is unable to comment further at this time."

The lawsuit states that Bohonyi forced one plaintiff to perform sex acts and send him naked photos while she was a minor. The diver, who competed in the U.S. Olympic trials, was sent home from a swim meet after a teammate informed the head coach of the diving club about the allegations in 2014.

"Bohonyi psychologically coerced [the woman] into believing that she was required to perform sexual services in exchange for her continued involvement in diving," the lawsuit says. "He preyed on her age, vulnerability, and dreams of becoming an Olympian, and used the power structure and imbalance of power to make her believe she was required to sexually service him in exchange for her involvement in diving for Team USA."

Bohonyi was fired by the diving club two weeks after the allegation, but he was not added to USA Diving's list of banned coaches until six months later in 2015.

A police investigation into the alleged abuse was dropped in 2014 at the request of the diver, but the case was reopened in January with the diver's cooperation.

The other diver accuses Bohonyi of starting an abusive relationship with her in 2009 that included him coercing her into daily sex.

Bohonyi did not respond to a request for comment by the newspaper.

Ohio State has also come under fire after several former Ohio State wrestlers accused university doctor Richard Strauss of sexual abuse during medical treatments. The accusations reach as far back as the 1970s. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.

"The Ohio State University has no interest in hurting their brand," Little told the Indy Star. "This is part of a massive problem at Ohio State that's not just isolated to Dr. Strauss."