USA Gymnastics, Karolyis Accused Of Ignoring Sex Abuse In Explosive Lawsuit


Oct 27, 2016

The USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center at the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas, was a dangerous place for young athletes for far too long, a pair of recently filed lawsuits allege.

A former USA women’s gymnast filed a civil lawsuit in California Superior Court on Thursday in which she alleges ex-team doctor Larry Nassar repeatedly sexually assaulted her over years when she was a minor, according to ESPN’s John Barr. Futhermore, the suit alleges legendary coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi failed to protect her amid their own physical and emotional abuse of gymnasts at their ranch, which has served as the USA women’s gymnastics training hub since 2001. The gymnast also accuses USA Gymnastics officials of ignoring and concealing the abuse.

Defendants include Nasser, USA Gymnastics, its current and past presidents Steve Penny and Robert Colarossi, Bela and Marta Karolyi and the gymnast’s private coaches Galina Marinova and Artur Akopyan.

The accuser, now 24, represented the United States between 2004 and 2010 when she was aged 12 to 18. She claims the abuse caused her to suffer depression, eating disorders and panic attacks.

A 2000 Olympic medalist sued Nassar in September, also claiming he sexually assaulted her. The lawsuit filed Thursday makes similar accusations against him.

Nassar, 53, worked with USA Gymnastics from 1986 to 2015 as a trainer and team doctor. USA Gymnastics fired him in 2015 amid complaints he committed sexual misconduct during physical examinations and notified law enforcement. Michigan State University also fired him last month after the Indianapolis Star reported on sexual allegations he faces. More than 30 people have accused Nassar of sexual abuse in recent weeks. Authorities are investigating him, and he could face criminal charges.

“What we’re really saying is the ranch was a toxic environment for these kids and a perfect environment for a pedophile to flourish,” John Manly, the attorney representing both former U.S. gymnasts who have sued Nassar, said. “(Bela and Marta Karolyi) had an obligation to make sure their environment was safe and they failed miserably. These were children and they were left alone with this man, who turned out to be a sexual predator.”

The Karolyi’s have trained leading American gymnasts since 1981 and are widely hailed for turning USA women’s gymnastics into world-beaters. Bela was named National Team Coordinator in 1999 and Marta in 2001. Marta retired after the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Marta Karolyi declined to comment on the lawsuit, and other defendants could not be reached when ESPN tried to contact them.

Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images

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