By Gabriella Borter
(Reuters) – Harvard University’s Athletic Department said on Tuesday that its head diving coach, Chris Heaton, had stepped down, amid accusations of sexual misconduct.
Heaton, who was hired to lead Harvard’s diving programme in August, was placed on leave on Oct. 3. In an abbreviated statement on Tuesday, Harvard said that Heaton had resigned and that it had appointed an interim coach.
In a class-action lawsuit filed on Sept. 30, Heaton was accused of soliciting on numerous occasions since 2015 nude pictures from female athletes at USA Diving’s Ripfest Diving camp in Indiana. USA Diving is the sport’s national governing body.
Heaton was not named in the lawsuit, which was filed by several women, only one of whom was named in it. Reuters’ attempts to reach Heaton were unsuccessful.
On Tuesday, Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane declined to provide contact information for Heaton, saying he was no longer an employee and that she did not know if he had legal representation.
The lawsuit, seen by Reuters, named as defendants USA Diving, Indiana Diving Academy, Ripfest’s director John Wingfield, and Johel Ramirez Suarez, who had worked at the camp as a coach.
John Wingfield and representatives for USA Diving and the Indiana Diving Academy did not respond to requests for comment. Reuters was not immediately able to obtain contact information for Suarez.
In a statement issued by Harvard on Oct. 3, spokeswoman Dane said, “Harvard Athletics was unaware of any allegations of misconduct when Mr. Heaton was hired as the Head Coach for Diving in August 2018.”
“Upon learning of allegations of sexual misconduct from media reports, Harvard immediately placed Mr. Heaton on leave, pending a review by Harvard University,” she said.
It was the latest case of allegations of sexual misconduct roiling college sports.
In August, the U.S. Department of Education opened a civil rights investigation into how Ohio State University responded to accusations of sexual abuse against now-deceased doctor Richard Strauss, who worked for its athletic department.
In July, Ohio State said that more than 100 former students had told investigators they were victims of Strauss, who killed himself in 2005.
Last year, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics, Larry Nassar, was sentenced by a Michigan court for sexually abusing female gymnasts. Michigan State University agreed to a $500 million settlement in that case.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Bill Tarrant)