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Swim coach Bowman apologizes for 'inappropriate' texts

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Irvine (United States) (AFP)

Bob Bowman, the longtime coach of swimming superstar Michael Phelps, has apologized for his role in "inappropriate" text messages sent in 2011 to a former female US Olympic swimmer.

The Orange County Register last week reported Olympic medallist Caroline Burckle's allegation that she received text messages and a voicemail from a phone belonging to Bowman in May of 2011, the year after she retired from the sport.

Burckle, 32, told the newspaper the messages were sent by Bowman and Sean Hutchison.

Hutchison is the coach accused by former Olympian Ariana Kukors of sexually abusing her when she was a minor, although he has said they had a consensual relationship only after she became an adult.

"I regret the exercise of poor judgment in being involved one evening seven years ago with inappropriate communications," Bowman said in a statement this week. "I promptly apologized to the person to whom the communications were sent, and my apology was accepted.

"I have nothing further to say at this time."

The Register cited a June 2011 letter from then-USA Swimming national team director Frank Busch to Bowman in which Busch said the text messages and voicemail were "inappropriate and suggestive."

Busch wrote that it was important that Bowman "understand the severity of this situation," and that the incident caused Burckle "significant mental distress".

USA Swimming, whose national championships began on Wednesday in Irvine, California, south of Los Angeles, also issued a statement on the matter.

"In 2011, USA Swimming was made aware of inappropriate texts sent to an adult former member athlete by a member coach. 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."

Bowman, best known as the coach who guided Phelps to 28 Olympic medals, including 23 gold, later served on the US coaching staff at the 2012 London Games and as head coach of the US men's team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He was hired as coach at Arizona State University in 2015.

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