Gymnastics icons Martha and Bela Karolyi were unaware of the decades-long abusive behavior of former national team doctor Larry Nassar, the coaches said in a new interview.
Martha Karolyi, who led the national team for 15 years before retiring after the 2016 Rio Olympics, tells NBC News that “the whole gymnastics community” could not recognize Nassar’s criminal behavior.
“I heard during the testimonies (at Nassar’s sentencing) that some of the parents were in the therapy room with their own child and Larry Nassar was performing this,” she told Savannah Guthrie. “And the parents couldn’t see. How I could see?”
She added that, “everybody said, ‘Larry Nassar is a good doctor. Larry Nassar is a good guy.'”
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Nassar was sentenced to hundreds of years in prison earlier this year and has been accused of sexually abusing more than 260 women and girls.
The Karolyis were named as co-defendants in civil lawsuits filed against Nassar and USA Gymnastics. Several victims, including McKayla Maroney, say they were abused at the Karolyis’ Ranch near Houston.
The ranch served as the training home for USA Gymnastics during most of Martha Karolyi’s tenure running the national team.
Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber said earlier this year that Martha Karolyi “knew what was going on every second in the gym,” according to CNN.
McKayla Maroney says Larry Nassar abused her ‘hundreds’ of times
“She knew how many routines that we did,” Wieber said, according to CNN. “She knew what we were eating. She knew our treatments. So it was just, when you go there, you know that Martha is watching. Everything you’re doing, she’s watching.”
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The Karolyis said in depositions filed last year and obtained by CNN that they didn’t know about Nassar’s actions because they were not involved in the everyday operations of the ranch.
Nassar was already established in the program when Martha Karolyi took over the national team. He would visit the ranch during training sessions and also accompany the team to events around the world.
Maroney said she was abused “hundreds” of times by Nassar.
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“That’s awful,” Martha Karolyi told NBC, when asked about Nassar’s crimes. “But I would say even if they have big names or they have no names, any child who was violated by Nassar, it’s a crime and it’s so sad.”
“The whole thing is just like an explosion, a bomb exploding. Boom,” Bela Karolyi told Guthrie.
With News Wire Services
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