Weekend reports from the TV Globo news programs Globo Esporte and Fantástico revealed that Fernando de Carvalho Lopes, a former coach of the Brazilian National Team of Artistic Gymnastics, is facing court charges accusing him of sexually abusing 10 athletes. News of these charges accompanied revealing testimonies from several Brazilian gymnasts.
Lopes had already been dismissed as a Olympic coach two years ago after an athlete’s parents reported allegations that Lopes had molested their son at age 13. Since then, new charges have surfaced, adding dozens of new allegations of rape and abuse by the trainer.
At the moment, only 10 athletes (who didn’t have their names publicly revealed) have denounced Lopes in court. The cases are currently under investigation of the Public Ministry of São Paulo, and represent only a small portion of the more than 40 accusations of of abuse reportedly levied against the former coach.
In all accounts, the athletes claim the coach took advantage of their young age and lack of knowledge about the training process to insistently violate them. The only athlete to speak openly on the subject was Petrix Barbosa, a team champion from the 2011 Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Barbosa, who has been working for 20 years with young, up-and-coming male athletes from the Mesc Club in São Bernardo do Campo said:
Fernando was my first coach. Mesc was my first club where I started gymnastics … The psychological pressure in a young man of 10 or 11 years … Whenever we were showering, he’d spy on me … I’ve woken up with him, I don’t know how many times, with his hand inside my pants.
The athlete was in the club under Lopes’ coaching from ages 6 to 13, but he left because he could no longer endure the abuses that occurred while in the bathroom, during physical training and even outside the gym.
Fear and shame prevented him from telling his family. He said, “He always asked how our development was. He said he needed to keep up with our growth in order to change the training. And he’d ask us to him show the penis. He asked me to masturbate and ejaculate in front of him.”
The coach hasn’t yet publicly commented on the reports and the Brazilian Gymnastics Confederation says that it had never heard of these accusations and that it would have referred them to the proper authorities.
The Brazilian Olympic Committee says it doesn’t tolerate any abuse or discrimination.
What do you think of the alleged abuse of Brazilian gymnasts? Sound off in the comments.
Cover image by O Globo