Bela, Marta Karolyi say they had no knowledge of Larry Nassar abusing gymnasts

Former USA Gymnastics women's national team coordinator Marta Karolyi and her husband Bela tell NBC they were unaware of the abusive behaviour by a former national team doctor now serving decades in prison.

Karolyis both served as women's team leaders, their facility was an official USA Gymnastics centre

Bela, left, and Martha Karolyi talk on the arena floor in June 2012 before the start of the preliminary round of the women's Olympic gymnastics trials. The Karolyis are speaking publicly amid the criminal trials of a former national team doctor now serving decades in prison. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

Former USA Gymnastics women's national team coordinator Marta Karolyi and her husband Bela have told NBC they were unaware of the abusive behaviour by a former national team doctor now serving decades in prison.

Marta Karolyi led the national team for 15 years before retiring after the 2016 Rio Olympics. She told NBC's Savannah Guthrie in "no way" did she suspect Larry Nassar was sexually abusing athletes under the guise of treatment.

"The whole gymnastics community couldn't recognize this," Marta Karolyi said in an excerpt provided to The Associated Press on Friday by NBC. "Everybody said, 'Larry Nassar is a good doctor. Larry Nassar is a good guy."'

The Karolyis spoke as part of a Dateline NBC special scheduled to air Sunday. It takes a look at the fallout from revelations about years of abuse by Nassar against hundreds of former athletes, including several members of the U.S. Olympic team.

The Karolyis set up a training facility near Houston as Bela gained national prominence in the sport for coaching Mary Lou Retton, 1984 Olympic gold medallist. The Karolyi Ranch would be recognized as an official women's training centre for USA Gymnastics early this century, as Marta took over as head coach of the women's team.

The Karolyis have been named as co-defendants in several civil lawsuits filed against Nassar and USA Gymnastics. Several victims, including two-time Olympic medallist McKayla Maroney, say they were abused at the ranch. The ranch served as the training home for USA Gymnastics during most of Martha Karolyi's tenure running the national team.

Nassar spent nearly three decades at USA Gymnastics before being fired in 2015 after complaints about his behaviour. He continued to work at Michigan State University through the fall of 2016 before being hit with federal charges. Nassar is now serving decades in prison for molesting women and girls and for possessing child pornography.

Nassar was already established in the program when Marta Karolyi took over. He would visit the ranch during national team training sessions and accompany the team to events around the world. Maroney said she was abused "hundreds" of times by Nassar.

Marta Karolyi denied having any knowledge about Nassar's pattern of abuse.

"I heard during the testimonies [at Nassar's sentencing] that some of the parents were in the therapy room with their own child and Larry Nassar was performing this," Martha Karolyi told Guthrie. "And the parent couldn't see. How I could see?"

With files from CBC News