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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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USA Gymnastics Doc Accused of Sexual Abuse

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A gymnast claims in court that the USA Gymnastics organization and world-famous coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi allowed the women team's doctor to molest her and other underage athletes for years.

Dr. Larry Nassar "systematically sexually groomed" the teenage gymnast, Jane LM Doe, "and proceeded to repeatedly sexually abuse, harass and molest" her from 2004 to 2010, she says in a 60-page, 11-count lawsuit filed Oct. 27 in Superior Court.

Among the doctor's abuses were what he called "intravaginal adjustment," which he administered in her living quarters, Doe says in the complaint.

Doe claims the Karolyis, USA Gymnastics officials and others kept quiet "to avoid scandal" and "protect the reputation ... [and] the monetary support" they received: millions of dollars in annual corporate support.

Other defendants include the former and current presidents of USA Gymnastics, Robert Colarossi and Stephen Penny, Karolyi Training Camps LLC, Karolyi World Gymnastics Inc., Karolyis Elite, AOGC All Olympia Gymnastic Center Inc., Galina Marinova and Artur Akopyan. Marinova and Akopyan are described as owner-operators of All Olympia Gymnastic Center.

Doe says all the defendants knew or should have known about Nassar's "propensity and disposition to engage in sexual misconduct with minors before he sexually abused and molested plaintiff," and that they failed to enforce the organization's detailed rules and policies to protect the teenage athletes, including that adults should never be alone with a minor.

Doe is at least the second to accuse Nassar of abusing young female gymnasts. In September, an Olympic medalist in Sacramento sued him and USA Gymnastics, claiming he abused her from 1996 to 2000.

The Indianapolis Star has reported that as many as 30 people have filed civil or criminal charges against Nassar or otherwise accused him of abuse. USA Gymnastics is based in Indianapolis, and the Star has run a series of stories on the growing scandal.

Two Michigan attorneys who have represented the doctor in other cases, Matt Newburg and Matthew Borgula, could not be reached for comment Friday. Both have said that Nassar denies the allegations.

USA Gymnastics issued a statement denying the allegations in the new lawsuit. It called the charges against Nassar "troubling," but said it fired him and reported him to the FBI in September 2015, soon after learning of gymnasts' complaints.

Jane LM Doe was born in 1992 and joined USA Gymnastics and its national team in 2004, training regularly at Karolyi Ranch, the national training center in Huntsville, Texas. There and that year Nassar began grooming her for abuse, Doe says in the lawsuit.

She says the Karolyis' training methods made that easy.

Bela Karolyi rose to prominence in the 1976 Olympics as the coach of gold-medal superstar Nadia Comaneci. After he and his wife defected from Romania, he led U.S. gymnast Mary Lou Retton to gold in 1984.

Martha Karolyi became coordinator of the USA national team in 2001, retiring this summer after seeing the five-member women's team win nine Olympic medals, including four golds.

The Karolyis' training methods, however, have been described as brutal and abusive.

Doe says in her lawsuit that the couple hit and scratched young girls until they bled, deprived them of food and water, screamed obscenities at them and criticized their bodies in front of their peers.

"This created a toxic environment, perfectly suited for The perpetrator (Nassar) to systematically sexually abuse the minor children," the complaint states.

At the ranch, Nassar would "sneak these minor gymnasts food, candy and other 'contraband'" and act as their friend and confidant, while the Karolyis and other defendants "turned a blind eye" to his molestation, Doe says in the complaint.

She adds that as the team medical director, Nassar "would use the guise of care, athletic training, osteopathy, and kinesiology to normalize intimate, inappropriate, and sexually abusive contact with plaintiff."

The contact included what Nassar described as "an 'intravaginal adjustment,' a fictitious guise where the perpetrator (Nassar) would digitally penetrate plaintiff's vagina in order to adjust her bones" and often took place in Doe's living quarters "without any supervision or a chaperone," she says.

Doe's attorney John Manly with Manly, Stewart & Finaldi in Irvine, did not respond to phone call Friday. Manly also represents the plaintiff in the Sacramento lawsuit.

Doe seeks punitive damages for sexual assault and battery, harassment, gender violence, unfair business practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, constructive fraud and negligence. She also wants court supervision imposed on USA Gymnastics.

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