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Ex-Penn State Gymnasts Detail Alleged Abuse

Jason Scott

Former gymnasts have accused Penn State women’s gymnastics coaches Jeff and Rachelle Thompson of emotional and verbal abuse, and details of the allegations have emerged in recent reports.

The story was first brought to light in April in the Penn State student newspaper The Collegian, where Shealyn Farley described abuse by the Thompsons that led to a suicide attempt.

Farley alleges her coaches forced her to continue to work through a knee injury, made it difficult for her to schedule doctor’s appointments, and demeaned her for not being able to fully participate in practices.

Several former gymnasts came forward with similar stories about the Thompsons. In addition to being pushed to train through pain, some gymnasts said the coaches criticized their bodies, would push them to lose weight and tried to interfere with their personal lives. Kristin Blades, another former gymnast, alleged that the Thompsons delivered an ultimatum: her scholarship or her boyfriend.

In a statement given to People Magazine, Penn State said that an investigation into the gymnastics program revealed no evidence of abuse. 

“A full review of the gymnastics program was conducted by the University’s Office of Ethics & Compliance in December and January, following information Penn State received earlier this academic year,” the statement reads. “The Athletics Department reviewed the report and noted that while some student-athletes reported behaviors they found personally objectionable, no instances of abuse were identified.”

Rachelle Thompson has reportedly announced her plans to resign from her position at the end of this month, but Jeff Thompson will remain the team’s head coach. 

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