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Swimming coach resigns as his gang rape conviction emerges – 55 years on

April 9th, 2016

Following the resignation of László Kiss, the coach of Hungary’s national swimming team, pundits disagree on whether his youthful conviction weighs more than the 16 Olympic gold medals he helped to win over the past decades.

74 year old László Kiss resigned on Thursday, despite a unanimous vote of confidence in him by the presidium of the Swimming Association. He said his health had been impaired as a result of the unjust attacks on his integrity. He denied raping the girl who denounced him and two of his friends in 1961. He also rejected claims that he must have been recruited by the Communist political police if he could get a job as a swimming trainer after serving twenty months of his three year sentence.

In one of his often passionate Magyar Hírlap columns, Zsolt Bayer takes up the defence of Kiss, and calls his detractors ‘rats’. He happened to be a swimmer forty years ago and knew Kiss personally, he writes. The trainer’s past ‘was not unknown in the swimming world’, he recalls, but swimmers believed that the intercourse had been consensual. In any case, Bayer argues, fifty years of impeccable performance as a trainer of scores of swimmers, male and female, must weigh more in the balance. “This is not what he deserves. Not from these rats, anyway”, he concludes.

Magyar Nemzet’s Róbert Puzsér feels sorry ‘for an old man shamed in public’ but finds it unacceptable to commit teenagers to a gang raper’s care. He has no doubt about the veracity of the accusation or of the sentence handed down to Kiss and his friends 55 years ago, since he believes that the world of swimming is based on violence. Children are forced to suffer harsh treatment for years in order to squeeze extraordinary performance out of a very few, he claims. Puzsér does believe in giving every culprit a second chance in life, but can’t help thinking of a series of sex scandals in the swimming world and therefore refuses to turn his head away. ‘Too many people have done just that over the past 50 years,’ he writes.


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