Former Gymnast Files Suit Against USA Gymnastics For Sexual Abuse

Ford Springer | Contributor

A former gymnast filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming United States gymnastics coaches and top officials participated in and enabled sexual abuse of several underage gymnasts.

The unnamed former member of the U.S. Women’s National Team claims former team physician Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abused her for “several years,” according to the Indianapolis Star. The suit also claims former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi enabled the abuse through a “regime of fear, intimidation, and physical and emotional abuse,” at their Texas training facility.

Gymnast Alicia Sacramone, Steve Penny, Alan Ashley, Bela Karolyi, Jeff Diskin and Martha Karolyi> on January 26, 2011 in Huntsville, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for Hilton)

Gymnast Alicia Sacramone, Steve Penny, Alan Ashley, Bela Karolyi, Jeff Diskin and Martha Karolyi on January 26, 2011 in Huntsville, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for Hilton)

According to court records, the Karolyis fostered an “oppressive, abusive environment” at their Texas Ranch facility “that included scratching children until they bled, depriving them of food and water, screaming obscenities and encouraging parents parents to hit their children.”

While the Karolyis participated in abusive training tactics, Dr. Nassar performed “anal and vaginal examinations of Plaintiff and other gymnasts in the care of (USA Gymnastics) without gloves, a chaperone, and/or any form of lubricant,” according to the suit.

The plaintiff also claims Nassar “talked to the California gymnast about sex, describing oral sex and telling her that other underage gymnasts were doing it.”

The suit alleges the Karolyis “turned a blind-eye to the sexual abuse being perpetrated” by Nassar while he kept quiet about their “regime of fear, intimidation, and physical and emotional abuse” of young gymnasts.

The Karolyis are one of the most successful coaching teams in U.S. gymnastics history. They have “developed 28 U.S. Olympians, nine Olympic champions, 15 world champions and six national champions,” the Indianapolis Star reports.

The gymnast who filed the suit was a member of the National Team from 2006 to 2011 and alleges the Karolyis “concealed sexual and physical abuses at their elite training facility in Texas to protect their reputations and businesses.”

Gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and U.S. Olympian Shawn Johnson attend the U.S. Olympic Committee Benefit Gala at USA House at the Royal College of Art on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and U.S. Olympian Shawn Johnson attend the U.S. Olympic Committee Benefit Gala at USA House at the Royal College of Art on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

California attorney John Manly filed the lawsuit on behalf of the victim saying, “These children and young women sacrificed their childhood and adolescence to compete for their country and win medals for this country,” according to the Indianapolis Star.

“They are in many ways the best our country has to offer and many of them were severely mistreated and sexually abused. And instead of being healthy, happy adults, many are simply hallowed out and barely able to function because of what occurred under the Karolyis’ supervision and because of Dr. Nassar,” Manly said. “It’s inexcusable, and we intend to hold them accountable.”

The suit filed in California also accuses USA Gymnastics, President Steve Penny, former President Robert Colarossi, California-based All Olympia Gymnastics Center and its owners Galina Marinova and Artur Akopyan for ignoring the abuse and failing to protect the plaintiff.

Ford Springer

Contributor

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