Karolyis of Nassar: ‘Miserable man’

Oralandar Brand-Williams, and Oralandar Brand-Williams

Former USA Gymnastics National Team Coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi broke their silence about the Nassar scandal in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s Dateline television news program.

In an interview with NBC “Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie, the Karolyis were asked in a segment about the Larry Nassar case called “Silent No More” about Nassar’s abuse of the young gymnasts in Michigan and about those occurring on their watch at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas. They said they were unaware of the abuse by the former national team doctor who is now imprisoned.

Bela, left, and Martha Karolyi talk on the arena floor before the start of the preliminary round of the women's Olympic gymnastics trials in this June 29, 2012, file photo.

The husband-and-wife pair who coached America's top female gymnasts for three decades also were asked about allegations of ill treatment toward the young athletes they were coaching.

When asked about ever hitting a gymnast or being emotionally and verbally abusive to the young gymnasts, Martha Karolyi said, “Okay, verbally, definitely not abusive. Emotionally, it depends on the person. You have to be a strong person to even to handle the pressure.”

“I never touched anybody. And if anybody comes up with that one, that's a dirty lie.” said Bela Karolyi.

Martha Karolyi said it was “very hurtful” thinking about what the female gymnasts went through because of Nassar. Bela Karolyi joined his wife, saying, “I’m hurting, I’m hurting very, very much on that one. This miserable man destroyed everything.”

The Karolyis have been named as co-defendants in several civil lawsuits filed against Nassar and USA Gymnastics, including one by former national team member Mattie Larson.

Nasser, once a renowned osteopathic doctor, was sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges and up to 175 years by state courts on sex abuse charges in January for molesting nine girls over a 20-year period. More than 250 girls and women have accused him of sexual assault.

Guthrie also interviewed Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, who spoke about her abuse by Nassar. Maroney said the sexual abuse worsened during a gymnastic meet in Tokyo in 2011 when Maroney was 15. The gymnast said Nassar’s sexual abuse “went ... overboard that night” when she found herself “bawling, naked, on a bed” with Nassar on top of her.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Maroney in the interview.

Fellow Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman said she remembers Maroney describing in detail to her and others in a car driving back to a hotel from a training session how she was sexually abused by Nassar. John Geddert, an Olympic coach and a Michigan resident who runs gymnastic training programs, was in the car that day and said nothing after Maroney spoke of the abuse, according to Maroney.

They had harsh criticism for Geddert, who sent young athletes to Nassar for treatment of sports injuries.

Maroney said she sounded the alarm about Nassar years ago. When asked by Guthrie if people heard her that day in the car, Maroney replied: “Yeah, people gasped.”

Raisman said: “I remember John Geddert was in the car back to the hotel and just said nothing.”

“And why do you think it sticks in your memory?” Guthrie asked Raisman.

“Because I feel that what people don't understand is that there were so many adults around us all the time,” Raisman replied. “And nobody ever asked any questions. Nobody ever said anything. And so that's why we just -- we always thought that we were the problem. You never, ever realized that sexual abuse can happen to you until it does.”

Efforts by The Detroit News to reach Geddert, who worked with Nasser for two decades, were unsuccessful Sunday.

Geddert operated the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Dimondale and DeWitt near Lansing, where Nassar treated the gymnasts. Nassar’s victims complained Geddert rarely offered the young female gymnasts the choice to be seen by other doctors.

Geddert was the U.S. women's gymnastics coach for the gold-medal-winning 2012 Olympic team. He was suspended by USA Gymnastics in January. The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a criminal probe into Geddert.

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