Lawsuit alleges diving coach forced athletes into sex, says USA Diving failed to report him to police

The Ohio State University Diving Club is one of the defendants in the class-action lawsuit filed last week.

By Madison Park, CNN

A lawsuit accuses USA Diving, the sport’s governing body, of failing to protect its athletes after a diving coach was alleged to be sexually abusing female athletes.

The class-action suit accuses William Bohonyi, who had been a diving coach, of sexually preying on at least two female divers and names him, USA Diving and the Ohio State University Diving Club as defendants.

The lawsuit was filed last week in US District Court in Indianapolis, where USA Diving is based.

The suit alleges that Bohonyi forced two female athletes into having sex with him as well as repeatedly coercing them into sexual acts and making them send naked pictures of themselves. At least one was a minor at the time of the alleged abuse, the suit says. CNN doesn’t usually name alleged victims of sexual assault.

The lawsuit also alleges that USA Diving “failed to report Bohonyi to law enforcement for being a serial rapist,” as required by law, and that despite banning him from membership in 2015, it did nothing to stop him from acting as a diving coach to other underage females through at least this May.

“USA Diving knew or was willfully blind to the fact that … Bohonyi presented a clear and present danger to young female athletes,” the lawsuit says.

In response, Cait Cohn, USA Diving’s social media and communications coordinator, said, “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.”

CNN has attempted to reach Bohonyi for comment.

Abuse allegations

The lawsuit describes troubling allegations of sexual abuse and rape of two former female divers.

In 2009, a female diver had begun training with Bohonyi while she was at Indiana University. The suit alleges he “demanded oral sex” from her and “in doing so he forced her to trade sex for diving coaching.” He is accused of forcing her “into having at least one sexual act a day while he was acting as her coach” and forcing her “to text him sexually explicit photos of herself.”

The student was frequently told: “You owe me this,” according to the lawsuit.

She transferred in the last two years of college to a different school.

Another diver says she was 16 when Bohonyi began to sexually abuse her in 2014. The underage diver was “psychologically coerced” into “believing 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 (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 says.

She was a member of the Ohio State University Diving Club, where Bohonyi coached. The club provides recreational diving lessons and is billed on its website as having the second-highest ranking junior USA Diving team in the nation.

A teammate of the diver reported the abuse after seeing an alarming message on the teenager’s phone in the summer of 2014, according to the suit.

“Immediately upon learning of the allegations regarding a dive club member in 2014 against Will Bohonyi, the university placed him on administrative leave and opened an administrative investigation,” the university said in a statement.

The university said it also notified Franklin County Children Services, university police and USA Diving at the time.

University police opened an investigation on August 19, 2014, and its investigation was closed at the request of the diver, according to Benjamin Johnson, the university’s director of media and public relations. University police also notified law enforcement in Maryland in August 2014, Johnson said.

The university’s administrative investigation continued and resulted in Bohonyi’s termination nearly two weeks later in late August 2014, according to Johnson. The results of the administrative investigation were reported to USA Diving in 2014, he said.

But the lawsuit alleges that the university came in possession of hundreds of nude pictures — or what it called “child pornography” — of the teenager in 2014, and that four years later, “no action has been taken by Ohio State or the Ohio State Police Department.”

The university said its police investigation was reopened in January after the former dive club member contacted it, and it’s working with the Franklin County prosecutor’s office.

The lawsuit alleges that USA Diving initially refused to investigate Bohonyi, even though it received information about Ohio State’s investigation in 2014.

“Despite this knowledge, USA Diving did not decertify or otherwise ban, sanction, or report William Bohonyi until February 10, 2015,” which was seven months later, the lawsuit says.

Although Bohonyi was deemed ineligible for membership with USA Diving in 2015, the lawsuit alleges that the organization “has taken no action whatsoever to enforce Bohonyi’s ban.” It said that he was openly coaching diving at an Ohio community center through at least the winter of 2017-18 and privately coaching USA Diving members up to two months ago.