Gymnastics trainer Bela Karolyi faces new claims that he physically abused and mentally tortured young athletes from the 1960s.
Karolyi, who trained in his native Romanian language before emigrating to the United States in 1981, where he took over the American national team, and his wife Martha are said to have beaten, starved and refused medical treatment to girls in their training camps.
Among the alleged victims was Nadia Comaneci, an early protégé of Karolyi and the first gymnast to reach a perfect ten at the Olympics – an achievement previously believed to be unattainable.
The allegations are contained in old files of the Securitate, the Romanian secret police from communist times, which were sent to spy on the Karolyis because of the importance of the Romanian gymnastics team to the state propaganda efforts.
The Karolyis are already facing legal proceedings and investigations into allegations of abuse and their connections to the pedophile team USA doctor Larry Nassar.
Bela Karolyi (left) and Ms. Martha (right) are again alleged to have abused young gymnasts during their training in Romania
Among the victims of Karolyis, Nadia Comaneci is said to have been, the first gymnast to achieve a perfect 10 at the Olympic Games (also shown in 1976 left and right in 2019).
The documents will be published in a new book, Nadia si Securitatea (Nadia and the Securitate), by the Romanian author Stejarel Olaru.
In the book, he writes that even the secret police were sometimes shocked by the treatment girls received in Karolyis training camps.
“Starving gymnasts was a regular practice of the Karolyis,” he writes.
“The girls ate toothpaste at night before going to bed – they were so hungry. In some cases, they secretly talked about drinking water from the toilet tank because they were often not allowed to drink water.
Some suffered from bulimia. They became experts in stealing food that they hid in places they believed no one would discover, such as the hem of the curtain. ‘
In an unpublished interview included in the book, Comaneci claimed she was beaten and starved for up to three days.
Meanwhile, intelligence documents refer to Karolyi sometimes eating meals like steaks and french fries in front of girls who were malnourished.
The Karolyis are already facing investigations and legal proceedings in the United States regarding the time they spent training Team USA athletes on their ranch in Texas (pictured 1996).
Comaneci, 59, who lives in Oklahoma, made a brief statement to the Times without addressing the abuse claims directly.
‘I was aware [Olaru’s] Project and his research on the files and informants of the secret police, ”she said.
I told him all my memory is in the book I wrote: Letters to a Young Gymnast. Nothing else to add. Life goes on.’
Bela Karolyi did not specifically deny the allegations when contacted by the AFP news agency.
“I’m never naturally satisfied,” he said. ‘It’s never enough, never. My gymnasts are the best prepared in the world. And they win. That’s all that counts. ‘
It is hardly the first time that the Karolyis are accused of abusing female athletes who are entrusted to their care.
Several athletes have provided information about their time at Karolyi Ranch, located in a remote part of the Sam Houston National Forest in east Texas.
At the ranch, pedophile doctor Larry Nassar, now in prison for 175 years for abusing more than 150 women and girls, carried out some of his attacks.
Team USA pedophile doctor Larry Nassar carried out attacks on the couple’s ranch – with accusers including gold medalist Simone Biles (right), who trained there
His accusers include Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles – all of Team USA gymnasts who won the gold medal.
The Karolyis deny any knowledge of Nassar’s abuse, but the athletes have accused them of turning a blind eye while claiming the couple committed abuse themselves.
In a 2016 lawsuit filed by an anonymous Jane LM Doe, the couple were accused of beating gymnasts, while former athlete Mattie Larson accused the couple of keeping Nassar as a doctor because he was willing to ignore their abuse.
“The total detachment from the outside world, in addition to carefree and careless adults, made the ranch the perfect environment for abusers and molesters to thrive,” Larson told CNN in 2018.
“Did you keep Larry with you because he was a good doctor? Or did you really keep him because he let us compete when we were hurt and ready to keep your secrets? ‘
However, others have claimed that they were directly molested by the Karolyis, both of whom have served as Team USA head coach over the years.
Dominique Moceanu, a member of the 1996 Olympic gold medal team, described the Karolyis as “the most emotionally abusive coaches in our lives”.