Abuse in USA Gymnastics

samantha severyn

UPDATE 5/18/18: 

With the nearly 300 victims that came forward, Larry Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years on Michigan state charges of sexual assault, to go along with a sentence of 40 to 125 years in prison on three counts of sexual assault with another 60–year sentence on federal child-pornography charges.

“Your decision to assault (young children for years) was precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable… I Just signed your death warrant.” – Judge Rosemarie Aquilina


In late October of 2016, A former elite gymnast filed a new Lawsuit Claiming USA Gymnastics and some of its top officials, specifically Bela and Martha Karolyi, fostered physical and sexual abuse of young gymnasts.

The suit claims USA Gymnastics and the Karolyis, who are one of the most successful coaching teams in gymnastics history, concealed sexual and physical abuses at their elite training facility in Texas to protect their reputations and businesses.

The plaintiff, who wishes to remain Unnamed at the time, was a member of the U.S. Woman’s National Team from 2006 to 2011 and was a world team member in 2010, has claimed that the former physician Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abused her over several years.

Since these allegations were made public, upwards of 30 women have come forward with sexual abuse allegations against Dr. Larry Nassar.

The FBI, MSU police and the Michigan attorney general's office are investigating Nassar's conduct. One of the doctor's attorneys, Matt Newburg, previously denied wrongdoing by his client, saying Nassar's techniques are "medically accepted and appropriate." However, the attorney for the woman behind the new lawsuit disagrees.

"These children and young women sacrificed their childhood and adolescence to compete for their country and win medals for our country," said California attorney John Manly, who filed the lawsuit. "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 hollowed out and barely able to function because of what occurred under the Karolyis' supervision and because of Dr. Nassar. It's inexcusable, and we intend to hold them accountable."

The Karolyis, who are members of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, developed 28 U.S. Olympians, nine Olympic champions, 15 world champions and six national champions, according to a 2014 news release. Earlier this year, the women's team earned another nine Olympic medals — the most won by any nation since 1972.


The couple has operated the Ranch since the 1980s. The facility has been the womens' program’s official team training center since 2000 and is designated as its U.S. Olympic team site since 2011, according to USA Gymnastics.

The California lawsuit claims the Karolyis created an oppressive, abusive environment at the Ranch that included scratching children until they bled, depriving them of food and water, screaming obscenities and encouraging parents to hit their children, according to court records. The suit alleges that environment enabled Nassar to "groom" children by sneaking them food and acting as their friend in order to sexually abuse them. The lawsuit claims the Karolyis “turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse being perpetrated” by Nassar, who in turn kept quiet about the couple’s “regime of fear, intimidation, and physical and emotional abuse” of young gymnasts.

The previous California lawsuit, filed in September by a former Olympic medalist, claims USA Gymnastics hid complaints about Nassar and failed to adequately supervise his activities. That suit, also filed by Manly, contends the Indianapolis-based organization violated its own standards of conduct by allowing the doctor to examine the gymnasts alone in private rooms.

The lawsuit claims Nassar "would do 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." It also alleges the doctor talked to the California gymnast about sex, describing oral sex and telling her that other underage gymnasts were doing it.

The unrelated Georgia case claims USA Gymnastics officials ignored at least four prior warnings about alleged sexual misconduct involving former coach William McCabe. That failure to intervene, the suit says, allowed McCabe to continue coaching for about seven more years.

This isn’t the first time the Karolyis have been accused of abusing athletes.

In 2008, former Olympian Dominique Moceanu alleged she had been verbally and emotionally abused by Bela and Martha Karolyi while at the Ranch. But her pleas failed to prompt action from USA Gymnastics and drew criticism from other gymnasts.

“It's not easy to stand up to a powerful system that holds all the cards,” said Moceanu, the youngest U.S. gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal. “But at the end of the day, it is essential — and a priority close to my heart — that our athletes are safe and protected. If system changes need to be made for that to happen, then they can't come soon enough."