In response to Tatiana Gutsu’s confession that she was raped by Vitaly Scherbo in 1991, there is a torrent of comments from other former gymnasts and Scherbo’s mother in the Russian media saying that her allegations are false. That’s the kind of reaction that usually prevents rape victims from coming forward.
Vitaly Scherbo’s mother said that Gutsu is probably going after his money, even though it’s hard to imagine how that would be possible. The statute of limitations has passed a long time ago both in Germany (where it happened) and in USA (where both of them live), while the country they were citizens of at the time of the incident no longer exists.
Valentina Scherbo (Vitaly’s mother):
“This is complete rubbish! The most unpleasant thing in this story is that now my son will need to explain himself and, as they say, prove that two plus two isn’t five. After all, to accuse someone after almost 30 years – nothing is easier. And here is the question: did Tatyana Gutsu not have time to give such a “confession” before? Why did she wait? Why did she not give the “news” right after? And now she presents a “sensation”. Of course, the desired effect will be achieved – Gutsu will again be in the focus of media attention. It is much more difficult to clear the name of the one who was accused. What is the point of accusing Vitaly? Perhaps, Tanya, knowing that my son has a business in America, wants to “strip” him of his money? But I’m sure that he will defend his good name.”
“What relationship did Vitaly have with Tatyana at the time when they were athletes? Purely friendly. They attended the training camps, competitions together… My son was friends with Tanya and with the rest of the female gymnasts. Perhaps, Vitaly Scherbo raped the whole women’s team? Nonsense! And somehow I haven’t heard any of the other former athletes confirming Tatiana Gutsu’s story. I think, my son will also speak out in the near future. He will not remain silent when he is dragged through the mud. ”
Tatiana Toropova, who, Gutsu said, was in the same room when the rape happened and didn’t try to protect her friend, responded that there might have been some making out, but she doesn’t remember anything about sex or rape:
“I want to say that I have no idea about any rape that occurred on my watch. I did not see it, nothing like that happened. They were friendly and that’s it. I was a kid at that time just as she was. Excuse me, we are athletes! I am sure that there was no crime. We were doing sports, and specifically at that time came to compete, and not, pardon my French, to fuck, right? In general, I can not say anything bad about her or about him.”
“I’m shocked! Why would she make such a statement? I remember that at that time men’s competitions were over, and the women were competing the next day. They [Vitaly and Tatiana] came [to the room where Toropova and Gutsu lived] to celebrate the competition results. We were just staying up till late! We had to go to bed, and I asked Vitalik to go to his room. Of course, maybe he tried to make out with her a little, but rape? No! I also don’t remember that she was stressed because of something like this happening, honestly. Yes, many years have passed, but rape… No, not with me in the room – nope.”
Lydia Ivanova, who was one of the national team coaches at the time and coached the Unified team at the Barcelona Olympics, also commented on the matter and said that there were never any sexual abuse or harassment in artistic gymnastics in USSR. Considering, that all sports have their share of sexual abuse, her comment goes along with the famous “There is no sex in USSR” phrase.
Lydia Ivanova: “I do not want to talk in details about this and I think that this unseemly. Either she wants to earn money on this or get media attention, nothing more than that. It was unpleasant to suddenly hear about it. I’ve never seen any immodesty from this girl before. She was a good gymnast, at the high level. If there is a good, strong training session, what kind of sexual urges can there be? They [the gymnasts] would only want to drag their legs [to their beds], rest and then go to training again. I have very good memories of the life in sports during the Soviet Union period. The best. Discipline was at the highest level back then.”
Svetlana Boginskaya, Gutsu’s teammate from the Unified team, left a comment on the original Facebook post by Gutsu. While Boginskaya said it was heartbreaking for her to hear the story, she defended Rustam Sharipov, who, according to Gutsu, was there and did nothing to protect her:
“I am very sorry to hear this story about Tatiana Gutsu, breaks my heart to know what she went trough … I am a Woman who will stand up for people i know and care about. One of the people in Tatiana’s story who i personally know for 28-29 years is Rustam Sharipov who i been with in many trips as a gymnast , many shows after Olympics, who personally stood up not only for me but many others who need it help in any situation . Rustam is one of the greatest people i ever met, he is good friend,coach,father and a husband to his wife. I just want to let others know that HE would NEVER stay and do nothing in situation like this.” [author’s spelling is preserved].
Antonina Koshel, an Olympic champion and the deputy director of the Belarussian gymnastics federation also commented, saying that Scherbo couldn’t have done it:
“I don’t believe that this could have happened, that Vitaly is capable of such a thing. He’s the kind of a guy who couldn’t have offended someone like that. I don’t believe that she could be silent for 27 years and didn’t share it with anyone. Especially since she was a 15-year-old girl – that she didn’t share it, didn’t cry on anyone’s shoulder. I don’t know why would she say it. I guess, because of something else, so that people would think bad things about Vitaly… I can’t believe this and I wish other people wouldn’t think such bad things about him.”