The University of Utah gymnast says that she was recently diagnosed with "severe anxiety and depression" as a result of how she was treated
Elite gymnast Kara Eaker has decided to retire from the sport, alleging “verbal and emotional abuse” at the hands of her coaches as the leading factor in her decision.
In a detailed Instagram post shared on Friday, Eaker, 20, opened up about her experiences since joining the gymnastics team at the University of Utah. “I accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Utah because I truly believed the school was a place where I could contribute to the community, be a strong asset to the gymnastics team, and be free to develop myself and future career,” she explained.
But Eaker, a member of the U.S. gold medal-winning teams at the 2018 and 2019 world championships and an alternate at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, alleges that she instead faced abuse from the coaching staff.
“For two years, while training with the Utah Gymnastics team, I was a victim of verbal and emotional abuse. As a result, my physical, mental and emotional health has rapidly declined.”
“I had been seeing a university athletics psychologist for a year and a half and I’m now seeing a new provider twice a week because of suicidal and self-harm ideation and being unable to care for myself properly,” the former gymnast said. “I have recently been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, anxiety-induced insomnia, and I suffer from panic attacks, PTSD and night terrors.”
Eaker alleged these issues were the result of abuse at the hands of the gymnastics program’s staff. She claimed that the abuse “often happened in individual coach-athlete meetings. I would be isolated in an office with an overpowering coach, door closed, sitting quietly, hardly able to speak because of the condescending, sarcastic and manipulative tactics." Those tactics allegedly included “loud and angry outbursts,” including coaches cursing at her.
When she attempted to bring the issues to light with university officials, Eaker claimed that they were not quick to act on her claims. She wrote "One administrator denied there was any abuse and said, 'You two are like oil and water, you just don't get along.' To say I was shocked would be an understatement and this is a prime example of gaslighting. So therein lies the problem — the surrounding people and system are complicit."
The University of Utah has not responded to PEOPLE's request for comment.
No coaches were named specifically in Eaker’s post, but the University of Utah’s gymnastic program head coach, Tom Farden, has previously faced allegations of abuse but retained his job after an independent investigation.
In the investigation, published on the University of Utah’s athletics website, they concluded last month that Farden “did not engage in any severe, pervasive or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student-athletes.”
The investigation did find that Farden “made a derogatory comment to a student-athlete that if she was not at the University she would be a ‘nobody working at a gas station’ in her hometown.” It was also reported that “a few student-athletes alleged that Coach Farden made comments to student-athletes that, if corroborated, would have likely resulted in a finding that they violated the Athletics’ Well Being Policy’s prohibition on degrading language.”
Eaker cited the investigation into Farden in her Instagram post, claiming that it is “incomplete at best, and I disagree with their findings. I don’t believe it has credibility because the report omits crucial evidence and information and the few descriptions used are inaccurate.”
Farden has not responded to PEOPLE's request for comment.
All-in-all, she shared that she hopes her decision allows her to “be part of the solution,” adding “I want to stop the cycle of abuse and the men who threaten girls and women in all sports.”
Eaker has seen significant success as member of the U.S. gold medal-winning teams at the 2018 and 2019 world championships, and was selected to be an alternate at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. She also finished third at the NCAA championships in 2022 and 2023 with her team from Utah.
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.