Laurie Hernandez said now-banned coach Maggie Haney, who guided her to a 2016 Olympic gymnastics title, verbally and emotionally abused her leading up to the Rio Games. Hernandez said she developed eating disorders and depression as a result, according to The New York Times.
Haney was banned eight years by a USA Gymnastics independent hearing panel for violations including of an ethical code of conduct and safe sport policy, the federation announced Wednesday. Haney has not responded to a message seeking comment. Her attorney said she plans to appeal, according to reports.
“The toughest part about it was that there were no bruises or marks to show that it was real,” Hernandez said after the ban was announced, according to the Times. “It was all just so twisted that I thought it couldn’t be real.”
Haney coached Hernandez in New Jersey from her start in gymnastics, around age 5, through the Rio Olympics. Hernandez, the youngest U.S. female athlete across all sports in Rio at age 16, earned gold with the U.S. team and silver on the balance beam.
Hernandez told her mom about Haney’s conduct weeks after the Games. Her mom sent a complaint to USA Gymnastics, according to the Times.
Hernandez took a break from gymnastics and moved to California in 2018. She began training for a Tokyo Olympic bid in earnest last year with new coaches.
“The idea of sharing my story with the world feels extremely nerve wrecking and vulnerable,” was posted on Hernandez’s Instagram on Thursday in a thread that did not name Haney, “but after hearing positive results last night from the panel, I felt that sharing my story could help others, or at least raise awareness to emotional and verbal abuse.”