US gymnasts say sport rife with verbal and emotional abuse

A detailed of United States gymnasts chalking their hands during practice ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics at the National Indoor Stadium on August 7, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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They were little girls with dreams of Olympic gold when they started in gymnastics. Now they’re women with lifelong injuries, anxiety and eating disorders.

Former U.S. gymnasts and coaches interviewed by The Associated Press described a culture rife with verbal and emotional abuse. They say girls were forced to train with injuries and broken bones.

They say the culture was tacitly endorsed by USA Gymnastics and institutionalized by former star coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi.

The gymnasts say the Karolyis’ oppressive style created a toxic environment in which former doctor Larry Nassar could thrive.

Larry Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor who admitted to sexually abusing underage girls, has been sentenced to more than 50 years in federal prison on child pornography charges, a court official said Thursday, December 7, 2017.

Nassar was recently sentenced to decades in prison for sexually assaulting young athletes for years under the guise of medical treatment.

USA Gymnastics declined to comment for this story. The Karolyis’ lawyer denied they abused anyone.

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