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Ex-Gymnastics Coach Maggie Haney Sued by Riley McCusker, More over Alleged Abuse

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2020

Riley McCusker competes on the balance beam during senior women's opening round of the U.S. gymnastics championships, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

Riley McCusker and Emily Liszewski filed lawsuits in late October against former MG Elite Gymnastics coaches Maggie Haney and Victoria Levine alleging a "culture of abuse." 

Katie Kausch of NJ Advance Media reported Monday the women said in the lawsuits filed in New Jersey's Monmouth County Superior Court that the training environment at MG Elite regularly included "screaming, body shaming, discouraging girls from getting their periods and unsafe training conditions." The women said this culture led to injuries and athletes training while suffering from injuries.

Along with Haney and Levine, MG Elite, Monmouth Gymnastics and Arena Gymnastics are all named as defendants in both cases.

McCusker, 19, is a contender to earn a place on the Team USA gymnastics squad for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Liszewski, 18, competes at the collegiate level for the University of Pittsburgh.

Haney, who coached New Jersey native Laurie Hernandez when she competed in the 2016 Summer Games, became the focus of a USA Gymnastics investigation in August 2019 based on allegations of verbal and emotional abuse.

Hernandez was among those who came forward with allegations of a culture of fear and abuse at MG Elite, however, she has not filed a lawsuit against Haney or Levine.

In April, USA Gymnastics, the sport's governing body in the U.S., banned Haney from coaching for eight years after it determined she violated its "Code of Ethical Conduct, Safe Sport Policy and other policies," per CNN's Jason Hanna.

McCusker's lawsuit says the abuse occurred for her entire senior career at MG Elite from 2017 through 2019, stating she was "forced" by the coaches to train through injuries that became progressively worse and led her to be diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, according to Kausch.

Haney released a statement to NJ Advance Media through her spokesperson, Lisa Mercurio, in which she denied all of the allegations against her and claimed McCusker's mother, Jessica, was the one who limited her daughter's food intake and pushed her to train while injured.

"I hope Jess knows what she's doing because this situation isn't going to help calm Riley's nerves," Haney said in reference to next year's Olympics.

McCusker has moved to Phoenix to train with the Arizona Sunrays.

Liszewski said Haney and Levine "pressured her" into trying skills on the uneven bars that were beyond her ability, which led her to fall and suffer serious injuries in April 2016. She was unconscious for three days and suffered a fractured skull and seizures.

She left the MG Elite program after the injury.

Levine didn't provide a statement to NJ Advance Media about the allegations from either gymnast. She was suspended indefinitely in March pending a USA Gymnastics investigation.

Neither gymnast has spoken publicly about the allegations but they both spoke during Haney's USA Gymnastics suspension hearings.

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