Lawsuit: Coaches ‘scratched’ gymnasts, withheld food and water

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- Two of the most famous names in American gymnastics are now accused of creating an environment that allowed young athletes to be abused. A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles says Bella and Martha Karolyi knew about alleged sexual abuse of athletes and did nothing to stop it.

The suit, filed by an unnamed former U.S. Gymnastics team member, alleges Karolyis, along with Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, created a “toxic environment” at their training complex that allowed sexual abuse to run rampant. The suit also alleges former USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was allowed to abuse the unnamed defendant for years while the Karolyis allegedly turned a blind eye.

USA gymnastics cut ties with Nassar last year. After our newsgathering partners at IndyStar reported Nassar had sexual abuse allegations against him dating back to the 1990s, he was terminated last month by Michigan State University where he was an associate professor. Since the story broke, more than 30 people have come forward with allegations against him. So far, Nassar has not been criminally charged.

The lawsuit also alleges the Karolyis themselves were physically abusive to the athletes. Their regimented training has been documented for years, but the complaint alleges the couple would strike the athletes, scratch them until they bled, and deprive them of food and water.

In a statement, USA Gymnastics says, in part “The allegations that have been made are troubling. USA Gymnastics is committed to promoting a safe environment for our athletes.”

So far, neither the Karolyis nor Nassar have responded to requests for comment.

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