Coach still not planning to return

Updated: March 24, 2005, 3:38 PM ET
Reuters

BUCHAREST, Romania -- A former Romanian gymnast who had sued her coaches, accusing them of asking for money and forcing her to compete with an injured back, dropped her claims on Thursday after being compensated by a sponsor.

Earlier this year, Romanian Olympic team coaches Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang quit after 2002 world silver medalist Oana Petrovschi sued them for more than $50,000 in damages.

Belu admitted receiving money from his athletes but said it was given freely as a sign of gratitude and he never demanded it.

"Today my client officially asked the court to drop the charges against Belu and Bitang," Petrovschi's lawyer Dana Pavelescu told Reuters. "We asked the court not to pursue."

Pavelescu said one of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation (FRG) sponsors offered her client funds to drop the case, but she refused to disclose the details of the deal.

"My client and the sponsor have a confidentiality clause over their deal, so I'm not able to disclose it," Pavelescu said.

She said the Bucharest court in charge of the case agreed to drop the charges.

With Belu no longer supervising Romania's 2004 quadruple Olympic gold medalists, the gymnasts' training suffered and they gained weight, even though they are preparing for the European and world championships this year.

Although Bitang returned to work with triple Athens gold medalist Catalina Ponor and the others, it has made little difference to the morale of the girls, who said they also wanted Belu back at the helm.

He refused invitations to return to the team, saying he needed to sort out his legal problems. On Thursday he again declined but this time because of the poor state of the athletes.

"Why should I go back to the hall?" Belu told Reuters. "There is noboby there that can work hard because no athlete is in a condition to train properly on the apparatus."

Last week, the FRG executive committee reversed a decision to disband the country's Olympic women's team but did not let the gymnasts train on the equipment because they were overweight.

Under FRG's rules, a gymnast can not train unless her weight keeps her from danger during risky exercises in all four disciplines -- balance beam, floor, asymmmetric bars and vault.

"I don't go to the hall to do fitness," Belu said. "My duty is to prepare my athletes on the equipment."

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