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Former gymnasts claim systemic physical, sexual abuse by ex-coach

From Casey Wian, CNN
March 31, 2012 -- Updated 0907 GMT (1707 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Women claim gymnastics coach Doug Boger physically, sexually abused them
  • They decided to speak now, decades later, hoping that he won't coach again
  • He did not respond to CNN, but has claimed that his accusers are lying

(CNN) -- Anne Malver, then 11, thought she was heading to the trophy store with her gymnastics coach.

Instead they ended up in his apartment -- and, she said, she ended up naked as he "forced himself inside of me." She screamed out -- in pain, and for him to stop.

"He wouldn't," she recalled.

"And I'll never forget the words he whispered in my ear at that time: 'This is what you want. This is what all the girls want.'"

Malver is not alone, as several of Doug Boger's ex-elite young gymnasts -- speaking to CNN decades later, now as a group of adults -- detailed similar, graphic allegations of sexual and physical abuse.

Besides an initial "no comment" in a phone conversation weeks ago, Boger did not return repeated phone calls or e-mails from CNN, nor did he respond to a knock at his door.

But in an interview earlier this year with CNN Denver affiliate KCNC, he defiantly insisted that those accusing him are all lying.

"I was not abusive to them," said Boger, now in his 60s. "I didn't do anything wrong."

He was acquitted by a jury in 1982 on child abuse and battery charges, after two young athletes in his Pasadena, California, gym accused him of wrongdoing.

The parents of two of the ex-gymnasts who are now alleging abuse by Boger helped finance his defense during that trial.

One was the family of Julie Whitman, a star gymnast who was on USA Gymnastics' Junior National Team in 1983-1984, according to that organization's website. She said that Boger "was somebody that my parents trusted."

Another, Charmaine Carnes, recalled how her father referred to Boger as an "adoptive son" in messages sent out to family and friends before Christmas.

Her parents did not know, she said, that Boger was physically abusing her -- and how that turned to sexual abuse when she was 8 or 9 years old.

"I would ride with him in a car to a meet," Carnes recalled. "He'd be tickling me at a stoplight or something of that nature, and his hands would reach down and go into my privates."

Some days at the gym, Whitman said, could be "fantastic, and other days it was kind of a living hell." The intent was to produce world-class athletes -- like Sabrina Mar, who won the 1985 U.S. Nationals and 1987 Pan American Games all-around titles -- by pushing them to their limits, with the ex-gymnasts claiming Boger sometimes used physical force to make a point and exert his authority.

Carnes, for instance, pointed to a cigarette burn on her finger that she said came from Boger. And Mar described how "he used to grab you by your neck and he would pin you up against the wall. And basically just choke you."

Several remembered Boger standing over them, as they were on all fours -- sometimes kicking them in the stomach, at other times poking them with a toothpick he was known to chew on in his mouth.

"Girls would be sobbing, crying," recalled Malver.

Boger wasn't Kimberly Evans' coach, though she was a regular at the gym because her sister was one of his students. She remembered being 13 and heading with him to his apartment -- she thought to pick up some equipment, until she felt his hand "around the back of my neck, really hard" and she sensed "something good wasn't going to happen."

"And I was right," Evans said.

In a different incident, Kathy Riordan, daughter of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, recalled seeing a teammate, naked and running out of Boger's bed during one road trip. She told her father, who called the teammate's parents -- only to be told that they "wanted to keep it quiet."

"But I did bring Doug Boger down to my office," Richard Riordan said. "And he denied everything."

Most parents had no idea what was happening, partly because they'd signed a waiver that barred them from attending practices.

By talking now, these women -- now in their 40s and 50s -- say their main focus is not necessarily to bring more charges against Boger. Rather, they want to make sure that no other girls, from here on out, have similar stories.

Whitman began spearheading the effort after, about six years ago, she discovered that Boger was "still coaching."

"I just kept seeing his name and seeing his name and I thought to myself, I can't let this man continue coaching," a tearful Whitman recalled.

In 2008, she contacted USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny, who encouraged her to speak to her former teammates. Several of them ended up writing letters detailing alleged abuse, spurring an official investigation one year later.

"The biggest challenge with this particular case was that it happened 30 years ago and, not only that, he had been acquitted," Penny said.

Boger maintains some support -- including from Aubree Balkan, whom he coached at the World Championships in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

"I obviously don't want to believe it, but all I can share is the good experience I had," said Balkan, adding that she neither witnessed nor experienced abuse.

USA Gymnastics concluded its investigation in 2010 by putting Boger on its permanently ineligible coaches list. That means he cannot coach at a USA Gymnastics member gym, though he still can at a non-affiliated gym.

And he did just that, at a facility in Colorado Springs owned by a coach once convicted of a sex offense involving a gymnast.

"That really made me angry, made me livid," said Mar. "That someone like that, with such a history of abuse can still be able to coach in this field of gymnastics."

Today, Balkan says that Boger is no longer coaching -- adding that, with that, she's not sure what his critics are trying to accomplish.

But his accusers say that's not the point.

"This is about a group of women who want no more harm coming to any children for the sake of becoming a competitive athlete," Malver said.

CNN's Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.

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