Olympian Gabby Douglas appeared on "Oprah's Next Chapter" and charged that fellow gymnasts who bullied her and referred to her as their "slave" in Virginia were the reason she left the state and pursued her gymnastic career in Iowa.
But the head of her gymnasium in Virginia Beach says he has no idea what the gold medalist is talking about.
"Gabby's remarks were hurtful and without merit," Excalibur Gymnastics CEO Gustavo Maure said in a statement to E! News when he heard that the 16-year-old was claiming on national television that she felt "bullied and isolated from the group," possibly because she is black.
"We've had more African-Americans in elite and on the national team than any other gym in the country (5, 2 of them in Olympic Trials or Olympic Team Camp)," Maure continued. "Her African-American former teammates will answer this serious accusation. (1st statement untruth, she was not the only African-American gymnast training in the gym) We are good people. We never were knowingly involved in any type of bullying or racist treatment, like she is accusing Excalibur."
Another athlete who trained at Douglas' gym for eight years and even with Douglas has refuted her claims, calling them "absolutely ridiculous."
"The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening," Randy Stageburg posted to Gymnewstics.com. "I watched [head coach Dena Walker] and Gustavo put so much of their time and effort into gabby and the other athletes, no matter their race.
"Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the favorites," Stageburg added. "I am not saying that she never felt bullied because when you are in a sport with a bunch of girls it is bond [sic] to happen. However, anything that she may have felt was never about race and I can assure you everyone at some point has felt bullied. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean, funny how it is just now coming up."
A mother of one of the girls with whom Douglas used to train posted a picture of her daughter and the Olympian on Excalibur's Facebook page stating that they were close friends.
"I don't claim to know everything that happened in the situation with the gym and and its gymnast who is now an Olympic athlete, but I do know that my daughter loved her like a sister for seven years," wrote Kim Hedeland. "They were often partnered during training and slept in the same room during travel meets. They attended birthday parties and sleepovers together... My daughter says that she was one of her best friends at the gym and was very sad when she left."
"I wish to defend the children that trained with her and supported her when she attacks them with these allegations," Moure, the CEO of the gym, wanted everyone to know. "Is Gabrielle a credible person just because she is an Olympic Champion? She is not giving any names or dates, leading us to believe that the accusation is fake. This wouldn't be the first time that the media has made up a story. Thousands of gymnasts and families have supported our good conduct and our professionalism during the last 30 years."
But not everyone is so quick to believe Excalibur's rebuttal:
"I find it really gross that a gym run by, apparently adults, would come out of the gate and defame and publicly ridicule a 16-year old young woman for speaking of her experiences with other female gymnasts," a woman wrote on Excalibur's Facebook page.
Another person wrote to their page, "disappointed to hear how Gabrielle Douglas was treated at your school."
One of Douglas' fans said, "So this is the gym that treated Gabrielle like crap?? Well the fact that she didnt mention your name speaks volumes of what really happened, so hope you and the girls who treated her badly are wishing that you had been good to her cause she's going places that most of them will never dream of going!!!"
Do you think Gabby Douglas was telling the truth during the Oprah Winfey interview?
Maria Vultaggio is a reporter for the Continuous News Desk (CND), where she covers trending topics and breaking news for the International Business Times....