Top swimming coach sent inappropriate, sexually graphic texts to female Olympian swimmer

Arizona State head swimming coach Bob Bowman, best known for his work as Michael Phelps’ personal coach, confirmed his involvement in sending inappropriate, sexual text messages to a former Olympic swimmer before being hired at ASU, Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic reports.

Bowman sent texts to Caroline Burckle in 2011

Bowman confirmed to ASU vice president of athletics Ray Anderson that he sent inappropriate messages to Caroline Burckle back in 2011. ASU released a statement saying Anderson “initiated a review of the matter” last week and during that time, Bowman confirmed his involvement. Bowman then apologized to Burckle in front of former U.S. Swimming national team director Frank Busch.

Burckle ‘felt violated’ by the messages

The story of Bowman’s texts first surfaced last week in the Los Angeles Daily News.

As the Daily News’ Scott Reid reported, Burckle received these texts on May 16, 2011 from Bowman and fellow U.S. national team coach Sean Hutchison. She also received an explicit voicemail on her phone, and the messages left her “haunted” ever since. Despite USA Swimming knowing about this incident, Bowman was named as a coach for the 2012 Olympic team months later. He was also the men’s head coach at the 2016 Olympics.

Swimming coach Bob Bowman
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Swimming coach Bob Bowman
MONTREAL - JULY 22: United States swimming coach Bob Bowman speaks at the press conference before the start of the swimming competition at the XI FINA World Championships on July 22, 2005 at the Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Bob Bowman is a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Swimming team. (Photo by USOC/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
Michael Phelps of the United States, left with coach Bob Bowman, talks about winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, on Sunday, August 17, 2008, shortly after winning his final medal. (Photo by Alex Marsh/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 14: Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman speak to the media during a press conference for the Charlotte Ultra Swim at the Charlotte Aquatic Center on May 14, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JUNE 18: Michael Phelps speaks to his coach Bob Bowman during day 3 of the Santa Clara International Grand Prix at George F. Haines International Swim Center on June 18, 2011 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
US swimming team coach Bob Bowman attends a press conference on the eve of the start of the swimming competition at the FINA World Championships in the indoor stadium of the Oriental Sports Centre in Shanghai on July 23, 2011. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE LOPEZ (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 10: (L-R) Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman speak to the media during a press conference ahead of the 2012 Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center on May 10, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - MAY 13: Bob Bowman, coach for Michael Phelps poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit on May 13, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
US swimming coach Bob Bowman speaks to journalists in Berlin August 9, 2013, ahead of the Berlin leg of the Swimming World Cup, which takes place on August 10 and 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ROBERT MCPHERSON 'SWIM-USA-FRA-BALTIMORE-AGNEL' US swimming coach Bob Bowman gives instruction to swimmers during a training session at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center on October 17, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - APRIL 24: Bob Bowman speaks at a press conference after competing in the Men's 100m Butterfly Prelim during day one of the Arena Grand Prix at the Skyline Aquatic Center on April 24, 2014 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
IRVINE, CA - AUGUST 05: Conor Dwyer and Coach Bob Bowman speak during the 2014 Phillips 66 USA National Championships Press Conference at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Complex on August 5, 2014 in Irvine, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 20: Michael Phelps and coach Bob Bowman speak to media during the Team USA squad press conference at the Gold Coast Aquatics Centre on August 20, 2014 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 04: Coach Bob Bowman looks on during heat races during the 2016 Austin Elite Invite on June 4, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - APRIL 14: Coach Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps and his son Boomer watch the finals of the men's 400 meter individual medley on day two of the Arena Pro Swim Series - Mesa at Skyline Aquatic Center on April 14, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Burckle, who took bronze as part of 4×200-meter relay team at the 2008 Olympics, had retired in 2010. She told Reid the following:

I was a 24-year-old female swimmer who had retired way too young but was sick of all the (garbage). I wanted to change lives and do different things but felt trapped.

I was disgusted. I felt violated, felt sad too. This was a sport that I had just left and loved and so I felt very sad.

Burckle, now 32, co-founded Rise Athletes, a service that helps mentor young athletes, in 2015 alongside fellow Olympian Rebecca Soni. She did so in part because of Bowman and Hutchison’s actions.

For me it’s the principle of it. It’s about giving people the respect they deserve and shouldn’t have to ask for. It’s about creating a feeling of support within your (sports) community, athletes you feel respected and supported. It’s about empowering a younger generation of athletes. Athletes shouldn’t have to act a certain way to please their male coach.

Bowman: ‘I regret the exercise of poor judgement’

Bowman, 54, released the following statement regarding the matter:

I regret the exercise of poor judgment in being involved one evening seven years ago with inappropriate communications. I promptly apologized to the person to whom the communications were sent and my apology was accepted.

Metcalfe reported that it remains unclear whether ASU will take further action. The school hired Bowman in 2015 after Busch had endorsed Bowman for the position.

Bowman is best known for his work with Michael Phelps

Bowman coached at the renowned North Baltimore Aquatic Club starting in 1996, and that’s how he became acquainted with Phelps. Bowman made his Olympic debut as an assistant — and Phelps’ primary coach — in 2004, when Phelps medaled eight times in Athens. Phelps finished his career with 23 Olympic golds and 28 Olympic medals total, both the most of all time.

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