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Former Kentucky Swim Coach Lars Jorgensen Sued for Sexual Assault

Published on May 14, 2024 by Thomas Law Offices.


On April 12, two former University of Kentucky swim and dive team members filed a sexual assault lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Lexington. In the filing, not only was former Kentucky swim coach Lars Jorgensen sued for sexual assault, but another member of the coaching team, Gary Conelly, the university’s athletics director, Mitch Barnhart, and the university itself were also listed as defendants in the legal filing.

Treatment the Swim Program Members Allegedly Endured

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs outline how they were subjected to a “toxic, sexually hostile environment.” They described how the school was particularly permissive of then-Coach Jorgensen’s preying upon, sexual harassment of, and infliction of sexual assaults, rapes included, upon female collegiate athletes and coaches, all of whom were reliant on him.

An interview conducted by local TV station WHAS 11 suggests that fellow coaches and Athletic department members, also listed as defendants, turned a blind eye to what was happening. Also, the university is accused of “purposely” disregarding “multiple reports of inappropriate and sexual relationships.”

When Did the Kentucky Coach’s Misconduct Reportedly Begin?

While these specific victims’ allegations against the school’s swim coach and other university staff members just broke on April 12 with the filing of their lawsuit, they’re not the only claims of questionable behavior that have been lodged. According to an article published in The Athletic on the same day the lawsuit was filed, prior accusations made against Jorgensen include:

  • Raping now-former swimmers at Christmas parties at his home and in hotels while on trips for swim meets
  • Recounting anecdotes of his personal sexual encounters to student swimmers
  • Remitting sexually explicit images and video of himself to a UK swim team member
  • Inquiring about the collegiate swimmers’ past sexual exploits, menstrual cycles, and the size of their breasts
  • Sending sexually suggestive social media messages to swimmers

He also reportedly body-shamed swimmers, deprived them of food and subjected them to so-called “punishment workouts” if their body fat percentage rose above his pre-determined threshold. The latter practice, assigning extra, punitive workouts, is prohibited by the college sports governing body, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).

What the Former UK Coach and the University Have Said About the Sexual Abuse Allegations

When reached out to by phone by The Athletic prior to their article’s publication, the Coach denied all his former swimmers’ claims. He further stated that his aim was to always “lead in a positive manner” and prioritize doing “what’s best for each individual and the team overall.”

A UK spokesperson, when reached out to after The Athletic article’s publication and lawsuit’s filing, explained to the author of a Courier Journal article from April 13 that Jorgensen is no longer employed by the school, and given their policy to not discuss personnel issues, they didn’t have anything further to say about him. That spokesperson did, however, share that:

  • They (the school as a whole and specifically the UK Athletics Department) take allegations made regarding the conduct of potential and existing employees seriously and prioritize the “welfare and well-being” of its students as well as those employed by the university.
  • They expect any concerns regarding misconduct, including harassment, of their employees or “members of their community” to be reported to the “appropriate officials,” such as the school’s Office for Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity (IEEO), for further investigation.
  • Reviews of misconduct complaints involve university staff reaching out to complainants “a number of times,” and those individuals’ participation in that investigation is completely voluntary.

Jorgensen was reportedly being investigated for various violations of NCAA policies when he resigned from his role at the University of Kentucky last year.

Legal Options Available to Sexual Assault Victims

Cases like these, whereby someone in a position of power, like a coach, takes advantage of their role to sexually abuse or assault non-consenting individuals, happen far too often. Many of those victims reach out to us at Thomas Law Offices wanting to learn more about legal remedies available to them to hold those who inflicted unwanted sexual activity liable.

Both Kentucky and federal law may entitle you to file a lawsuit to recover compensation in cases like these. However, the burden rests on your shoulders to amass the evidence necessary to convince a jury impropriety occurred.

Building strong enough a case that commands the compensation you deserve for what you went through isn’t necessarily easy, but a skilled sexual assault attorney in Lexington, KY can help. Reach out to discuss what happened to you during a free, confidential consultation so our firm’s compassionate lawyers can advise you of your rights.

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Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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