A Gymnastics Coach Accused of Emotional Abuse Speaks Out: ‘I Cared Too Much’

Haney added: “I just think when money gets involved, people will say and do different things. I think a lot of this is about money.”

The arbitrator’s ruling on Haney’s appeal is expected in the coming days, said one of her lawyers, Steven Altman. He said he hoped that Haney’s suspension would be rescinded because U.S.A. Gymnastics’s hearing for the case had been biased and flawed, and “as a practical matter, a kangaroo court.” Seven of Haney’s accusers were not even coached by her, Altman said, and the gym offered a fun environment amid the intense training that is generally needed to master the sport’s daring moves.

“When they were doing gymnastics, it was serious,” Altman said. “They worked on life-threatening skills for hours a day.”

U.S.A. Gymnastics, in an emailed statement, said on Sunday that Haney’s hearing was “both fair and impartial, and adhered to the requirements” of the organization’s procedures, as well as the law that oversees Olympic sports in the United States.

Haney conceded she could be intense in the gym. But she said that most of the time “everybody is smiling and laughing and music is playing.” She carefully crafted the atmosphere at the gym, she said, knowing that parents had entrusted her with their children, at times from morning until evening. The program, Haney said, included closely monitored online learning, a certified teacher holding classes during the day and an emphasis on safety.

As a young gymnast herself, training in an elite program for a while, Haney worked with harsh coaches who screamed at the girls, she recalled, and had them step onto a scale daily, then listed everyone’s weight on a bulletin board in the gym. To make the girls lose weight, the coaches forced them to wear rubber suits or 20-pound belts and jog around the gym, she said.

“It didn’t faze me and didn’t bother me, but that kid next to me, it could’ve really bothered and scared them,” she said, adding that she never weighed her gymnasts or forced them to lose weight. “I think what I’ve learned over the last year is that so much of this comes down to perspective. Every person. Every athlete. Every coach. They have their own perspective of things.”

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