Gabrielle Douglas’ claims that she was bullied at her former training facility in Virginia have prompted a backlash from the gym’s owners who say her allegations are not true.
Excalibur Gymnastics, where Gabrielle Douglas trained before moving to Des Moines, said the allegations that coaches or gymnasts participated in racist bullying are simply not true, the New York Daily News reported.
Excalibur’s Randy Stageburg said it is not true that Gabrielle Douglas was bullied, telling Gymnewstics.com that she was actually favored while working at the gym.
“The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening,” Stageburg said. “Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean, funny how it is just now coming up.”
Douglas, who said she prefers to go by Gabrielle even though her teammates and media picked up on the nickname Gabby, made the allegations of bullying in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. The 16-year-old said she had a difficult adjustment to the competitive atmosphere of the gym and competitive gymnastics and was even close to leaving the sport over her bullying.
“I was just, you know, kind of getting racist jokes, kind of being isolated from the group,” she told Oprah. “So it was definitely hard. I would come home at night and just cry my eyes out.”
Gabrielle Douglas elaborated on one bullying incident where “one of my teammates was like, ‘Could you scrape the bar?’ And they were like, ‘Why doesn’t Gabby do it, she’s our slave.’”
Excalibur’s CEO Gustavo Maure said the allegations that Gabrielle Douglass was bullied are unfounded and that former African-American teammates at the gym can attest to that.
“Gabby’s remarks were hurtful and without merit,” Maure told E! News. “We’ve had more African Americans in elite [sic] and on the national team than any other gym in the country. Her African American former teammates will answer this serious accusation … We are good people.”
Other members and supporters of Excalibur took to the gym’s Facebook page to counter claims that Gabrielle Douglas was bullied.