"Hurtful and without merit": Owner of gym where Gabby Douglas says she was bullied and branded "slave" hits back

'Hurtful and without merit': Owner of gym where Gabby Douglas says she was bullied and branded 'slave' hits back

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UPDATED:

15:42 GMT, 28 August 2012

The owner of the Virginia Beach gym, where Gabby Douglas has said she was bullied and called 'slave' during early training, has called the Olympic gymnast's comments 'hurtful' and 'without merit'.

Gabby, 16, who won two gold medals for Team USA during the London Games, told Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that she nearly
quit the sport after cruel, and possibly racist jibes, pushed her to breaking
point.

But Excalibur Gymnastics CEO Gustavo Maure and a number of her former teammates today hit back at the allegation.

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Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas opens up about being bullied at her native Virginia Beach gym

Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas opens up about being bullied at her native Virginia Beach gym

In a statement to E! News, he wrote: '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).

'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…

'I wish to defend the children that
trained with her and supported her when she attacks them with these
allegations.'

Fellow gymnast Randy Stageburg, who
trained for two years alongside Gabby at Excalibur, added to Gymnewstics.com that the suggestion of racism was 'absolutely ridiculous', though she did admit that a degree of bullying was a given in an environment with lots of girls.

Gustavo Maure

Upset: Gustavo Maure, owner of the Virginia Beach gym where Gabby Douglas said she was bullied and called 'slave', has called the Olympic gymnast's comments 'hurtful' and 'without merit'

Excalibur

Another former Excalibur gymnast says the suggestion of racism is 'absolutely ridiculous', though she did admit that a degree of bullying was a given in an environment with lots of young girls

'Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the
favorites,' she said.

'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.'

Gabby has an army of supporters, however, with one commenter hitting back at Mr Maure on Excalibur's Facebook page.

She wrote: '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.'

Gabby Douglas poses with Oprah Winfrey and her two gold medals during a taping of Oprah's Next Chapter on Saturday

Gabby Douglas poses with Oprah Winfrey and her two gold medals during a taping of Oprah's Next Chapter on Saturday

Playful: Oprah tried out the balance beam, helped by Gabby

Playful: Oprah tried out the balance beam, helped by Gabby

Opening up to Oprah
Winfrey on the couch in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Oprah's Next Chapter,
which aired in the U.S. on Sunday night, Gabby described how fellow
athletes at the Virginia Beach gym often made her feel isolated.

Most difficult to deal with were the
racially charged comments she faced, and on one occasion another gymnast
branded her their 'slave'.

During the interview she recalled: '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”'

'I felt I was being bullied and isolated from the group and they treated
me not how they would treat their other teammates. I definitely felt isolated. I felt like,
why am I deserving this'

Pro: Gabby wowed crowds at the London Games

Pro: Gabby wowed crowds at the London Games

'Is it because I'm black Like, those thoughts would go through my mind.'

Describing how Gabby's passion for gymnastics started to wane her mother Natalie Hawkins added 'She said, 'I'd rather quit. If I can't move and train and get another coach, I'd rather quit the sport.'

In a bid to pursue her sporting dreams Gabby relocated to a gym in Iowa to train with her current coach, Liang Chow.

And thanks to that decision, this summer Gabby became the first
African-American gymnast to win the individual and the first American
to take both individual and team at the same Olympics.

Since
her achievement she has appeared on a number of television shows and
has already been a guest on Jay Leno alongside First Lady Michelle Obama
and joined her teammates on Late Night with David Letterman and The
Colbert Report.

Controversy: Olympic star Gabby Douglas, whose hair sparked a social networking war during the recent Games, has booked a celebrity hair stylist to tend to her dark mane. Critics claimed her hair looked unkempt

Controversy: Gabby's hair sparked a social networking war during the recent Olympic Games. Critics took to Twitter to complain that her hair looked unkempt

During the Olympics, Douglas's childhood memories came back to haunt her when her hairstyle was cruelly criticized.

Twitter
users argued that her hairstyle should have been a tight,
ballerina-style bun, rather than the more casual up-do she sported.

One wrote: 'Gabby Douglas gotta [sic] do something with this hair! These clips and this brown gel residue aint it!'.

Another posted: 'In Olympic news, why hasn't anyone tried to fix Gabby Douglas' hair'.

In response to the remarks she told the Daily News:
'Where's this coming from Are you kidding me What's this about my
hair… I gel it up, put some clips in it and put it in a bun. People
shouldn't be worried about that.'