Gymnastics

Sexual Abuse Alleged In Lawsuit Against USA Gymnastics

A former women's national team member alleges that Bela and Marta Karolyi ignored molestation by team doctor

Gymnastics
Marta and Bela Karolyi — Bob Levey
Oct 28, 2016 at 10:46 AM ET

Another former member of the women’s gymnastics national team has sued the sport’s governing body, alleging that she was “sexually abused, harassed, violated, and molested, as a minor.” And this time the lawsuit names the famed married coaches, Bela and Marta Karolyi, as defendants.

The complaint, which was filed in California, accuses former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of molestation and harassment and alleges that the Karolyis “turned a blind-eye to The Perpetrator NASSAR’s sexual abuse of children,” created a “toxic environment,” and “instituted a regime of intimidation and fear.”

USA Gymnastics is already a defendant in two other lawsuits—one in California filed by an unnamed former Olympic medalist and one former gymnast in Georgia—for not responding to complaints of alleged sexual misconduct. There have also been criminal complaints logged by the police at Michigan State University, where Nassar was a faculty member until recently. ESPN’s Outside the Lines quoted a university spokesman saying, “We’ve received multiple additional complaints and we’re continuing to receive more complaints.” (Nassar is not currently facing criminal charges.)

This new lawsuit is the first in which the legendary Karolyis are named as defendants.

Marta Karolyi, who retired after this summer’s Olympics, told ESPN, “If it’s any legal matter, I have no comment on that.” Nassar has previously denied wrongdoing through his attorney, in stories run by the Indianapolis Star; he has not yet commented on the new allegations. He was fired by USA Gymnastics in 2015.

“As we have made clear, when USA Gymnastics first learned of athlete concerns regarding Dr. Nassar, we dismissed him from further involvement and reported those concerns to the FBI,” the governing body, which did not reply to Vocativ’s request for comment, said in a statement to the Star. “Still, the allegations that have been made are troubling. USA Gymnastics is committed to promoting a safe environment for our athletes. Due to the pending litigation and ongoing investigation, however, we are unable to comment further.”

John Manly, the attorney for the two California plaintiffs, told ESPN, “Bela and Marta Karolyi kept Nassar on because he was willing to keep their secrets, and when you have secrets in an environment with children, that’s where pedophiles flourish.”

In addition to the lawsuit’s allegations that the Karolyis enabled Nassar’s “systematic sexual abuse of minor children,” it also alleged the following of the coaches:

“. . . striking minor child gymnasts, scratching minor child gymnasts until they bled, encouraging parents of the minor child gymnasts to hit their children, depriving minor child gymnasts of food, depriving minor child gymnasts of water, actively searching the minors’ rooms to find and confiscate hidden food, screaming obscenities at these minor child gymnasts, cutting off communication of minor gymnasts with their parents, telling minor child gymnasts that they were fat, requiring gymnasts to train when they were ill, and requiring minor child gymnasts to have their physical appearance be judged in front of their peers.”

The Jane Doe who filed Thursday’s suit claimed that, as a result of the alleged abuse by Nassar, she has struggled with depression, panic attacks, anxiety, nervousness, and eating disorders.