Last week, Brazilian gymnastics coach Fernando de Carvalho Lopez was sentenced to 109 years and eight months in prison for raping four children who trained under him.
More than 40 gymnasts sued the coach for various acts of violence and harassment, but the court recognized only four of them as his victims, and the rest were brought in as witnesses.
The “colleague” of Larry Nasser, who in 2018 was sentenced to 175 years in prison in the United States for harassing minors and underage gymnasts for 30 years, could have received a heavier sentence. The prosecutor’s office wanted to put him behind bars for 150 years, but the current sentence of just over a century will be enough for the former to never go free again.
This is the biggest sex scandal in the history of Brazilian sports, and the most frightening thing is that in recent years more and more similar stories have come to light.
“My conscience is clear”
Bullying of teenage athletes by Fernando de Carvalho continued for 17 years (between 1999 and 2016). It ends on the eve of the Rio Olympics only because a 13-year-old girl gathers the courage to complain to her parents. Subsequently, seven more children complained of bullying, and the coach was suspended.
When the investigation confirmed cases of harassment, the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation expelled Carvalho from the sport for life and fined him 1.6 million reais (about $300,000). The punishment was reached three years later – only in 2019.
At first, the coach denied that he had molested anyone. “I know that my conscience is clear – I know that I have never raped anyone and that I have never abused anyone,” Fernando said in a 2018 interview.
The investigation hits a stone at the beginning, but after the local television “Globo” filmed the documentary “Fantastico”, in which it shows interviews with the victims of the pedophile coach, everything goes in a new direction. “One morning I woke up with his hand in my pants,” says one of the girls who suffered from the harassment of the trainer, who had victims in several different salons in Sao Paulo.
There are complaints against Fernando de Carvalho from both girls and boys. The only male victim to be named publicly was 2011 Pan American Games champion Petryx Barbosa. According to the court’s verdict, the coach “committed the crimes over a long period of time, taking advantage of his position, his authority as a coach and the vulnerability of the victims.”
“The investigation may drag on, but the good thing is that the court finally came out with a verdict – said the lawyer of the victims Christian Battaglia. – The first thing they said to me after the end of the trial was: “We are happy that we were able to stop this monster, even though we had to go through hell to get it.”
After the sentencing, they took a stand from the Gymnastics Federation. It said that the Federation has zero tolerance for such acts of harassment in sport and believes that the judiciary will continue to impose adequate punishments on the perpetrators of such crimes.
The first court hearings began in November last year. Since then, the former suspect, a convicted felon, has been in custody. However, his sentence is not final and will almost certainly be appealed.
“Justice has prevailed – exclaimed Petrix Barbosa. – I hope Fernando does not hurt anyone again. We wanted to change the sport for the better and protect the future of children in Brazil; our mission was successfully completed. I am a father myself and this was important to me. We also managed to change the positions of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation, who finally started to fulfill their task of protecting the athletes.”
In 2018, former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nasser was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting dozens of girls. For 30 years (between 1986 and 2016), the doctor harassed underage and underage gymnasts, eventually as many as 250 filed a class action lawsuit against him. Among Nasser’s victims are Olympic champions such as Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Reisman, Makayla Maroney and others.