An ex-member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team alleged that coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi ignored that she was being sexually abused by USA Gymnastics’ team doctor and dished out their own physical and emotional abuse at their Huntsville, Texas, training center.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday accusing former gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of molesting her, the unnamed woman, now 24, says the Karolyis “turned a blind eye to Nassar’s sexual abuse of children at the ranch” and “instituted a regime of intimidation and fear at the ranch for the minor children under their custody,” ESPN reported.
Among the claims, the woman alleges that the Karolyis struck and scratched the gymnasts, starved them while confiscating hidden food and had them strip to their underwear so their bodies could be judged in front of their peers, ESPN noted.
Sports Illustrated reported that the suit also accuses USA Gymnastics of being aware of the situation and failing to protect the athletes.
“The priority was winning at all costs, even if meant sacrificing the emotional and physical well-being of the young women and girls,” John Manly, the woman’s attorney, told the New York Daily News. “That’s against the law, and it’s fundamentally un-American. We can win without degrading the athletes that compete.”
Allegations against Nassar were reported in September ― some of which were contained in a civil suit brought forth by a medalist from the 2000 Olympics.
In a statement to media outlets on Thursday, USA Gymnastics denied the allegations.
“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 organization said, per the Indianapolis 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.”
Marta Karolyi told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” she could not comment on legal matters.