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Gymnast Lawsuit Claims Karolyis Turned 'Blind Eye' to Sex Abuse

The suit is the latest development in a scandal roiling USA Gymnastics.
Larry Nassar
Dr. Larry Nassar in 2008.Becky Shink / Lansing State Journal via AP

America's most famed gymnastic coaches were accused in a lawsuit Thursday of "turning a blind eye" to sexual abuse at their training center in Texas.

The suit filed in California by an unidentified athlete is the first time Bela and Marta Karolyi have been named in the scandal roiling USA Gymnastics.

The Karolyis, who have served as national team coordinators and coached many champions and Olympic medalists, did not respond to a recent call and an email to their gym seeking comment.

The gymnast, who was a member of the U.S. national team from 2006 and 2011, alleges she was abused by former team doctor Larry Nassar — who is being investigated by the FBI and the Michigan Attorney General — at the so-called Karolyi Ranch.

The Karolyis, the lawsuit charges, "created a toxic environment where the perpetrator (Nassar) was given opportunity to perpetrate and continue his systematic sexual abuse of minor children." The suit claims the couple hit and scratched the youngsters who lived and trained at the ranch, and let Nassar do what he wanted in exchange for not reporting them to authorities.

The suit also names USA Gymnastics, which is the sport's national governing body, and Nassar.

"USA Gymnastics denies the allegations against it in this latest lawsuit. As we have made clear, when USA Gymnastics first learned of athlete concerns regarding Dr. Nassar, we dismissed him from further involvement and reported those concerns to the FBI," the organization said in a statement.

"Still, the allegations that have been made are troubling. USA Gymnastics is committed to promoting a safe environment for our athletes."

Lawyers for Nassar, who has not been charged with a crime, did not respond to request for comment about the new lawsuit, but he has denied wrongdoing in the past. His attorneys have said he doesn't deny using vaginal penetration as part of valid osteopathic medical techniques.

"Any allegations that Dr. Nassar was performing these procedures for any purpose other than proper medical treatment are patently false and untrue," the lawyers said in a statement.

Nassar was sued in September by a former Olympian who says he molested her under the guise of invasive exams.

A third gymnast, Rachael Denhollander, has also publicly accused Nassar of sexually abusing her during exams in 2000.

And a law enforcement source said more than two dozen other former patients have filed sex abuse complaints with police at Michigan State University, where Nassar had his sports medicine practice until he was fired last month.

The most recent allegations against Nassar surfaced after an Indianapolis Star investigation into USA Gymnastics' handling of complaints — but questions about his conduct predate that report.

In 2014, Michigan State University police investigated an abuse complaint against Nassar and turned over the case to prosecutors, who declined to file charges. A university spokesman told NBC News that case is now being reopened.

After USA Gymnastics fired and reported Nassar in the summer of 2015, it's not clear what action the FBI took after that.

A source with knowledge of the case told NBC News earlier this month that the FBI is involved in the investigation of the current complaints. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced three weeks ago that his office is now investigating and will decide whether or not to prosecute Nassar.