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ICYMI: Cambridge gymnastics coach's hall of fame status unclear after lifetime ban

The Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame will be discussing the status of Elvira Saadi, a 2009 inductee, at a board meeting next month

This story originally appeared on CambridgeToday last Tuesday.

With the news of Gymnastics Canada handing down a lifetime ban to Dynamo Gymnastics co-owner and longtime local coach Elvira Saadi, it appears her spot in the Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame could now be in question.

Dave Menary, a co-founder of the hall of fame and its communications director, confirmed the committee knows of the sanctions imposed on Saadi but no decision on her status has been made.

"We are aware of the situation with Elvira Saadi and will be addressing this at our board meeting in early December," Menary said in an email to CambridgeToday about the 2009 inductee.

Saadi, who won two Olympic gold medals as a member of the Soviet Union in 1972 and 1976, has coached Olympians Yvonne Tousek, Crystal Gilmore and Madeline Gardiner, along with Victoria and Brooklyn Moors, the daughters of former Dynamo co-owners Chris Moors and Lisa Rutledge.

Tousek, Gilmore, Gardiner and Victoria Moors are also members of the hall of fame.

Among the violations found by the Gymnastics Canada Discipline Committee and its hired external investigator, LeeAnn Cupidio, were that Saadi routinely weighed athletes and made negative comments about their weight in order to "motivate" them and tried to manipulate her athlete’s energy level, weight, eating and drinking habits by restricting their food and water intake and encouraging the use of supplements, at times as an alternative to food.

It was found she had difficulty keeping her emotions under control, instilled fear and used her position of power and authority to threaten their dreams and ambitions of the Olympics and medals, among other complaints.

Upon reviewing the findings of the investigation, Gymnastics Canada levied sanctions against Saadi, including 10 year suspensions from coaching, judging, officiating, content development, volunteering and membership on Gymnastics Canada’s committees or boards.

When the 10-year ban is complete, the now 71-year-old Saadi will be allowed to return to training coaches only under strict conditions that includes having no direct contact with athletes. 

It's noted that Saadi has been credited the time served during her provisional suspension period that began during the investigation in 2020.

Rutledge, who sold the family's share of Dynamo Gymnastics three years ago, is in line with the decision and is ready to move on.

"We support Gymnastics Canada's decision," Rutledge said in a text to CambridgeToday. "Our family is now focused on the future."

Gymnastics Canada has also spoken out after the decision by the panel, emphasizing the wellbeing of its athletes are its number one priority.

"Nothing is more important to Gymnastics Canada than the safety of the children and athletes participating in our sport," Katia Perin, manager of communications, said in an email to CambridgeToday.

"This case reinforces the need for Gymnastics Canada to remain vigilant in ensuring that our Safe Sport policies are followed to the letter by every single member of our organization. There was clearly a lapse, and for that we are deeply sorry. Once we became aware of the lapse, we took immediate steps to accept responsibility, understand what went wrong and support our members."  

Attempts to contact the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, who also inducted Saadi in 2009, were unsuccessful.