Bela and Martha Karolyi, two of gymnastics' most legendary coaches, were mired in controversy when the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal broke

By Jason Duaine Hahn
July 07, 2020 09:00 AM
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Bela and Martha Karolyi, the legendary gymnastics coaches who were mired in scandal after it was revealed Dr. Larry Nassar abused girls at their Texas training facility, are now the subject of an upcoming 30 for 30 podcast series.

Heavy Medals: Inside the Karolyi Gymnastics Empire dives into the couple's powerful influence in the world of gymnastics and how they allegedly developed a "culture of fear and intimidation" through their training regimens, ESPN exclusively tells PEOPLE.

After defecting to the U.S. in 1981, the Romanian-born couple experienced unprecedented success in gymnastics. But this success eventually led to the Karolyis going unchecked and unquestioned by the other authorities in their sport.

In the debut trailer for Heavy Medals, Bela and Martha's former student Alyssa Beckerman — an alternate at the 2000 Olympics — describes how the couple used their power to tell them "what to eat, what to wear" and "how to think."

Bela and Martha Karolyi
Martha and Bela Karolyi
| Credit: Bob Levey/Getty

"We gave up our childhoods to represent the United States of America," former gymnast Jeanette Antolin tells ESPN reporters Bonnie Ford and Alyssa Roenigk.

When allegations against Nassar went public in 2016, Bela and Martha were accused of ignoring the abuse that occurred at their 200-acre ranch in Huntsville, Texas.

Antolin claimed the Karolyis knew Nassar was abusing her inside the cabin where she slept. The allegations later led to a lawsuit by the couple who maintained they were never told Nassar's abuse was sexual in nature.

larry-nassar-guilty-sexual-assault.jpg
Larry Nassar

USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi training facility in January 2018, the same month Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse during his time as a Team USA Gymnastics doctor and at Michigan State University.

Heavy Medals' seven episodes premiere on July 14.