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Suit against USA Diving accuses Harvard diving coach of sexual misconduct

October 3, 2018

Harvard University's diving coach has been accused of soliciting female athletes at an Indiana diving camp for nude photos and sending them photos of himself.

Chris Heaton is among the instructors described in a class-action suit filed Sunday in Indianapolis federal court against USA Diving, the sport's governing body. Harvard officials placed Heaton on leave Tuesday pending a university review.

The lawsuit claims that the athletes at Ripfest Diving, a camp for competitive divers, complained in 2015 that Heaton was soliciting them for the photos and sending them pictures of his penis. The women say program officials dismissed the complaints at the time.

Harvard spokeswoman Rachel Dane said the university wasn't aware of the allegations when it hired Heaton in August.

Heaton, who isn't named as a defendant in the suit, didn't immediately comment. USA Diving and Ripfest organizers, who are the primary defendants, also didn't respond to emails seeking comment.

The Indiana lawsuit says USA Diving and Ripfest didn't do enough to protect divers from former coach, Johel Ramirez Suarez, who pleaded guilty to three counts of battery last month.

The suit accuses organizers of Ripfest, including owner and 2008 U.S. Olympic Diving head coach John Wingfield, of creating a culture that "tolerated sexual harassment, objectification, assault and abuse."

Indianapolis-based USA Diving faces similar complaints in Ohio, where female divers in another class action lawsuit say the organization didn't take appropriate action to stop former coach Will Bohonyi from coaching beyond putting him on a list of banned coaches after they say he sexually abused and exploited them.

Heaton is an Ohio native and 2009 graduate of Miami University in Ohio who most recently served as program director and head coach at Moss Farms Diving in Moultrie, Georgia, according to an announcement from Harvard at the time of his hiring.

Heaton also held a variety of coaching roles for USA Diving and Team USA in recent years. He served as a coach for Team USA at the 2016 Junior World Championships in Kazan, Russia, according to the announcement.

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