Hall of Fame Gymnastics Coaches Accused of Mass Abuse

Hall of Fame gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and his wife, Marta, have been accused of both physical and psychological abuse during the 1960s.

A newly published book by Romanian author Stejarel Olaru, titled “Nadia si Securitatea,” said that Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci was one of the victims “starved to the point of developing eating disorders, slapped, and denied medical treatment,” the Daily Mail reported.

According to the New York Post, Comaneci was Bela’s first prodigy and gateway to defecting to the United States in 1981. Bela then became the coach for 1984 all-around gold medalist Mary Lou Retton. He was also the head coach for the 1992 United States Olympic team. Marta was the coach for the 1996 team, which won the gold medal.

The Post continues that the new book’s abuse claims come from old files from Romania’s Communist-era secret police force, the Securitate.

Olaru wrote that “[S]tarving the gymnasts was a regular practice by the Karolyis. The girls ate toothpaste at night before going to bed — this is how hungry they were. In some cases they talked about drinking water from the toilet tank in secret, because they were often not allowed to drink water. Some ended up suffering from bulimia. They became expert in stealing food, which they hid in places they thought no one would discover, like the hem of the curtain.” Comaneci said that she was slapped and starved for up to three consecutive days and that Bela ate meals in front of the underfed athletes, the report notes.

Comaneci, who now lives in Oklahoma, told the Times of London when asked about the book and its claims, that  “I was aware of [Olaru’s] project and his research on the secret police files and informers. I told him that my whole memory is in the book I wrote, ‘Letters to a Young Gymnast.’ Nothing more to add. Life goes on.”

The Daily Mail goes on to state that Bela did not deny the allegations, saying that “[B]y nature I am never satisfied. It’s never enough, never. My gymnasts are the best prepared in the world. And they win. That’s all that counts.”

The Karolyis are also facing accusations of ignoring sexual abuse by team doctor Larry Nassar, a convicted rapist and sex offender now serving a life sentence, many of which occurred the ranch where the gymnastics team trained.

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