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BREAKING: Kentucky swim and dive accused of complicity in sexual violence against student athletes

UK head coach Lars Jorgensen hugs signee Madison Winstead after she swam the 100m breaststroke during the UK’s “Sun Shall Shine” Blue and White meet at Lancaster Aquatic Center in , Ky. on Friday, April 22, 2016. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff.

Kentucky swim and dive’s former head coach Lars Jorgensen was accused of sexual violence and harassment by former members of the University of Kentucky team, per a report from The Athletic.

Jorgensen, who resigned in mid-2023, did so under the guise of other violations including punishment swims and eating practices, with UK quick to release a statement at the time with no reason for his exit being given.

First year head coach Lars Jorgensen cheers his swimmers on during the UK Swimming and Diving meet against The Ohio State University at the Lancaster Aquatic Center in Lexington, Ky., on Friday, October, 11, 2013. Photo by Jonathan Krueger

The report from the Athletic, a sports journalism publication, written by Katie Strang, detailed a shocking list of allegations against Jorgensen including that he allegedly raped two members of the swim program following a Christmas party, sent photos of his erect penis to members of the team along with videos of himself masturbating, told personal sex stories and commented on athletes’ bodies in sexual ways, and body-shamed his swimmers while also withholding food as punishment.

Jorgensen had prior allegations before coming to Kentucky, with allegations from a previous stop in the report detailing that he was allegedly in a relationship with a member of his team.

Per the report, UK had been notified multiple times about Jorgensen’s wrongdoing but allegedly labeled the case “not urgent” and brushed matters under the rug when an alleged victim refused to speak to the school about the matter. “Mr. Jorgensen is no longer an employee of the University of Kentucky. We do not, as a matter of policy, discuss specific personnel issues,” Jay Blanton, Kentucky’s chief communications officer said in a statement to the Kernel.

Blanton did, however, note that the university takes concerns “very seriously.”

“When issues between employees (or any members of our community) involve concerns over allegations of harassment or misconduct, it is the policy and expectation of the institution that such activity be immediately reported to the appropriate officials for review, such as our Office for Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity (IEEO),” he said.

Head coach Lars Jorgensen talks to assistant coaches during the UK Swimming and Diving meet against The Ohio State University on Friday, October 11, 2013, at the Lancaster Aquatic Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jonathan Krueger | Staff

The reasoning for the release of the information came on Friday when two former members of the program filed a lawsuit against Jorgensen, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart and Gary Connelly — Kentucky’s former head swim coach that employed Jorgensen — with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. 

The athletes claimed Kentucky showed complicity and deliberate indifference and enabled Jorgensen to create a “toxic, sexually hostile environment” and “prey on, sexually harass, and commit horrific sexual assaults and violent rapes against young female coaches and collegiate athletes.”

The Athletic report alleged that Jorgensen made a habit of isolating and seeking control over his victims, threatening their swimming careers if they rejected his advances. He allegedly made a habit out of making his victims volunteer assistant coaches once their careers came to an end so the abuse could continue.

The report detailed other forms of abuse by Jorgensen, including encouraging unhealthy eating practices and body shaming that allegedly became so severe many female athletes ceased to have menstrual cycles. There were also investigations into NCAA rules about punishment swims and the amount coaches are legally allowed to require and non-voluntary practice hours as well as explosive outbursts.

Jorgensen resigned in June of 2023 due to the latter allegations, taking a settlement of $75,000 with him. When alleged victims felt the university was not taking the sexual abuse allegations more seriously, the lawsuit was filed.

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Cole Parke, Sports Editor

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