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June 18th, 2012
06:47 PM ET

The dark side of gymnastics

In her new book, "Off Balance," Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu reveals a dark past hidden behind the gold-medal success. She tells Brooke about her struggles with abuse, and even shares a shocking discovery about her family.

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Filed under: Anchors • Brooke Baldwin
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. HBar

    Competing at the Olympic level is tough. The real question is whether to allow kids that young to do it. If it's OK to do it, then the treatment this woman endured is not abuse. If it isn't OK, then just being there is the abuse.

    June 21, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  2. John Doe

    Why is it I can post a comment on something like this with not ID, however to comment on anything important or political in nature I must make sure that that comment is tied to myself via another account.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  3. richellelj

    HBar, in the 70's the girls competing became younger and younger, it became common for girls as young as 13 and 14 to compete. DM was 13 when she won nationals and was 14 when she won her gold medal. They have since increased the minimum age for Olympic gymnasts to 16.

    June 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  4. The Truth

    This hard lifestyle and training has been well known for a very long time. In the internet age were this is very easily researched no parent or child should be ignorant of what is expected and the sacrifices they must endure to train at this level. So with all that information at their fingertips you have to ask who really wants it more the child or the parent.

    June 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  5. elvis316

    dark side of gymnastics? What could be darker than pedophiles parading out their fillies every four years and the country applauding them. Yeah, pretend it's normal what these coaches do. Olympics should have much older age limit. It wouldn't stop the abuse, but we would be able to ignore it a lot easier.

    June 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  6. Todd

    Gymnastics is undoubtedly a very tough lifestyle – and if it were adults going into it, no harm no foul. The question is whether or not such young, still-growing girls should train so hard and have their weight limited so strictly. Really doesn't seem like it would be good for their development (mental or physical)

    June 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  7. Georgia

    elvis316 – Implying, actually down-right saying, that all gymnastic coaches are pedophiles is disgusting, immoral, and slanderous. Assuming that every member of any "group" is the same, is quite prejudiced of you. Wouldn't quite a lot more of these adult former-Olympic greats be telling stories of abuse, or at least desplaying a dislike or avoidance of gymnastics, if every coach was a pedophile? But instead we see Shannon Miller, Keri Strug and plenty of other past Olympians supporting the sport, the athletes, and the coaches.

    July 2, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  8. KeenInsight

    I would hope that any athlete competing at a young age WANTS to do it and is not being coerced. Of course, an athlete who doesn't want to be there is usually not competitive. HOWEVER, there are always people who want to exploit someone's success and children rarely understand this and lack the skills to defend themselves. They are easily abused because they depend on the adults around them. If Dominique's book helps a child speak up when something isn't right, good.

    There are children who hear a calling at a young age and who thrive in the competition. Children in other countries fight to get accepted at specialized academies for tough training in all kinds of things.

    July 3, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  9. americanasanguine

    Most kids have bad and/or rough childhoods. It's actually very rare to have a really nice childhood. If you had one you are lucky.

    July 4, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  10. queenbee10

    Georgia–"slander" can only be asserted when a specific person has been demeaned by untrue statements. The law specifically states that any comment made about any group wholesale cannot be considered slander is is not prosecutable. As for the comment about pedophiles–it is ridiculous–all coaches and gymnastic people are not pedophiles BUT it is true that many pedophiles do seek out sports in order to have access to kids and it is highly likely that some of these types are in coaching gymnastics.

    Get over it. Denial is the reason why we have such ugliness in so many areas we "claim" are for children. As for this interview, this young lady wants the best of both worlds and has had a media coach. She basically tries to finesse and make excuses for behavior and sugar coat it, I think a lot of us are betting whether she wrote it or not –that the effectiveness of her father's anger most likely involved physical abuse that went beyond weighing her in public or calling her an egg.

    July 4, 2012 at 6:25 am |
  11. queenbee10

    Maybe it would be better for us to hear from people who have not been physically or otherwise abused as children–that way the other 88% can see what life could have been like had they not been born into those pristine families.
    July 4, 2012 at 6:26 am |

    July 4, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  12. Really???

    Really?? I'm not saying that her abuse wasn't real but I'm suspect on the timing of her "coming out" book. Money,. money, money I guess. Wouldn't her time have been better spent protecting the next generation of girls coming under the "handling" of these types of coaches? How many years has it been that she's been sitting on this, like it's new news. I'm having a problem with her feelings of entitlement at this stage.

    July 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  13. Mom of Three

    I read Little Girls in Pretty Boxes in 1995. This is not new. The information for her parents was out there when she was competing.

    July 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  14. Bob

    I don't think you can deal with it by age limits, countries like China just print up new birth certificates for their 12 year olds. The event itself needs to change so that those with younger bodies are unable to compete with those with mature bodies. This should be reasonably easy to do.

    July 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  15. kisst

    Dominique, you sound so incredibly healthy, mature, and positive here! Recovering from abuse at a young age is really, really difficult. It sounds like you have been through a lot in your life and really learned and grown from your experiences. You are an excellent role model for other young women. Best wishes to you and your family.

    July 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  16. KS

    "Abuse" here is not referring to sexual abuse, geez. While I am not saying that that does not happen, it is referring to various types of drugs. Typically stimulants to stay awake, possibly steroids inbetween testing, pain meds, etc.

    July 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  17. xfiler93

    professional sports always has a dark side. money first,everything else second. case in point: Penn State.

    July 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  18. rh

    It is true about many sports, but most have few competitors under 18 if any. To me, raising the age to 16 just means that there will be more years of torture, "preparation" instead of a chance to return to a normal life sooner.

    July 13, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  19. Wanda

    I've always felt that gymnastics can get a bad 'rap' because: 1. they are young 2. they are girls and 3. they are not paid. If this was a 15 year old boy, I believe the attitude might be different.

    July 14, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  20. lawdawg

    @queenbee10 I agree that saying all gymanistic coaches are pedophiles is both ridiculous and unactionable. However, as a point of law, group defamation whether slander or libel is actionable under the laws of most states. The plaintiffs carry the burden to show they were "identifiable" and suffered harm to their reputation as a result. As the group increases in size the ability of the plaintiff to carry that burden diminishes. To say all of the coaches at gym or all the coaches that participated in Z competition are pedophiles would be actionable. But again, "all coaches" is not.

    July 14, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  21. puckles

    Her parents gave her sister up for adoption because she was born with no legs. This shows what kind of people they are.

    July 15, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  22. shesfatnow

    She is too fat now, so I think she most likely would not have been unable to be in the olympics or get a medal without the type of training and coaching that she received at the time. They called her a balloon and Easter egg because they couldn't allow her to eat the way that she does now. She needed that "treatment" in order to succeed. She is walking proof that the kind of coaching treatment she got was just what she needed.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  23. Wendy

    First, if you have kids, you know for a fact that they will not reach this level of success unless the WANT to be there. Yes, parents do push thier kids to train and do what it takes. I tell my daughter, you chose to be a pitcher, you have to work at it every day otherwise, I will not spend the money on it anymore. She has a choice, but you can bet I will not let her lay around on the couch instead of practicing.

    ALL sports have a dark side. While I am sure there are great coaches out there, I am equally sure that there are horrible human beings too. How many little league coaches have been convicted of molesting little boys, so YES it is possile and it is probably true.

    A good friend of mine, her daughter was a candidate to go to an elite gymnastics academy, her mom said no. After the visit, she saw that they controlled every single aspect of the childs life from phone, tv, sleep, school...and what they ate. Food was used as a punishment, you didnt follow the rules, you didnt eat. They said her daughter, who is nationally ranked, needed to lose 15 pounds.

    The point is, there are dark sides to all sports, you as a parent need to know and sometimes you need to make the decisions for your minor child and do what is best for them. Other times, you need to hold their feet to the fire and make them back up their commitment that they made....heaven forbid children actually be made to follow through with what they said they were going to do.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  24. talpaiadului

    She had her 5 minutes of fame in 1996, and now she is trying to get some cash with a lousy book, talking trash about her family and her coach. Sad. Disgusting.

    July 16, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  25. chemicallyaltered

    Having been a nationally ranked gymanst, training 40 hours a week by the age of 5, I can tell you that "I" wanted it. I am now in my late 30s, broken, with joints replaced, but I would never say I was forced. Yes, it was brutal some days. Things tore, broke, bruised... and eating disorder? you bet. But I wanted it. I wouldn't trade it even now. You couldn't have kept me from the gym, no matter how hard they wanted me to train, no matter what my coach called me, not even when they told me I would never be Olympic quality. Abuse? Not to an athlete. What happened at Penn State – THAT was abuse.

    July 17, 2012 at 10:50 am |

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