Scandal in the Hungarian Swimming Association

The whole country is in turmoil over a 55-year-old story. Three days ago privatkopo.hu, a blog specializing in true crime stories, discovered that the highly respected coach of the Hungarian national swimming team, the seventy-five-year-old László Kiss, was sentenced in 1961 to five years, later reduced to three years, for participating in the gang rape of a girl known only as Zsuzsanna. She was eighteen. During the summer when the crime was committed, she was studying for her college entrance exams. The judge found that Kiss and two other star swimmers lured Zsuzsanna into the apartment of one of the boys and gang raped her. Privatkopo.hu cited fairly long passages detailing the brutal act committed by the three swimmers. Kiss received amnesty in March 1963, alongside most of the political prisoners who had been in jail since 1957. All in all, he spent twenty months in jail.

Three years after his release Kiss became the swimming coach of the Budai Spartacus Club, to which both boys and girls belonged. For jobs that involve dealing with minors Hungarians need a “certificate of good behavior,” which in the case of former convicts cannot be obtained until five years after their release. Since Kiss received amnesty and since he was such a good swimmer, I assume he received special dispensation. It is a well-known fact that, especially during the Kádár regime, crack athletes had extraordinary privileges. Another possibility is that he was treated well in exchange for information. Some people, including historians, point out that the Ministry of Interior often made recruiting trips to jails in the hope of signing up agents who would be willing to report on their friends and acquaintances. Those athletes and coaches who were allowed to travel abroad were often used for such purposes.

Of course, all this is just guess work, and at the moment we know very little about the details of Kiss’s release. However, one investigative journalist who read the judge’s opinion indicated today to György Bolgár of Klubrádió that Zsuzsanna’s case was not unique in the lives of Kiss and his two fellow rapists. There was another case which the prosecution had to drop in the absence of conclusive proof. He also indicated that he is not finished with his research, alluding to the fact that more details will be available even about the circumstances of release.

This is exactly what Kiss was trying to prevent when he turned to Attila Péterfalvi, president of the Office of National Data Protection and Freedom of Information, who has begun his own investigation into whether any privacy rights have been transgressed so far by reporting on the court case. He asked the media to stop publishing any more details on the case. I doubt that the journalists will heed Péterfalvi’s request, or at least I would be very surprised if they did.

Since the scandal surfaced, the reaction of the Hungarian Swimming Association has ranged from full support of the beleaguered Kiss to less than forthright statements by both the spokesman of the association and its president, Tamás Gyárfás, especially with regard to how much the present leadership of the association knew about Kiss’s background.

This scandal also exposed some of the practices common in the competitive swimming world. Apparently, the association is still governed in a dictatorial manner, just as it was fifty-five years ago. László Kiss, being the top coach, could decide which athletes would attend important international meets that could decide their futures. A coach from Debrecen who is no friend of Kiss claims that the athletes were actually afraid of Kiss and that swimming coaches in general are a pretty savage lot who occasionally use whips to make sure that the swimmer’s posture is perfect.

Here the Hungarian Swimming Association supported Kiss (left) and Tamás Gyárfás / Source: blikk.hu

Kiss (left) and Tamás Gyárfás / Source: blikk.hu

Zsolt Bayer, the anti-Semitic writer for Magyar Hírlap, defends Kiss because “Kiss claims the encounter was consensual” and in any case, even if it were true, it can be forgotten due to the tremendous joy Kiss gave Hungarians by coaching youngsters who eventually became Olympic gold medal winners. Even so, Bayer, who as I learned from this article himself swam, tells terrible stories about life as a serious swimmer, especially if the coach was László Kiss. Then “life was even more horrid than usual.” He still feels the leather strap on his thighs. A similar but much more eloquent description of life in the water was offered by a writer and professor of literature, Noémi Kiss, who as a fourteen-year-old trained with the famed Krisztina Egerszegi. Five years ago she talked about her horrid experiences, about the all-pervasive sexuality that exists around the swimming pool and the girls’ vulnerability in these surroundings.

Kiss has resigned his position as coach of the national team. He is no longer deputy mayor and an honorary citizen of Százhalombatta. His name will be removed from the town’s swimming complex. He had to step down from the Hungarian Olympic Committee and thus will lose his 1 million forint a month compensation.

The public is deeply divided on the issue. There are those who think that Kiss’s life after his conviction was untainted, that no complaints were ever filed about his behavior toward his women athletes. The incident occurred such a long time ago that punishment at this stage is meaningless. Then there are a few, like Bayer and István Stefka, another far-right journalist, who either believe that the “gang rape” was actually consensual or that the girl herself was responsible for her fate. According to Stefka, “At the Császár pool, the girls were sitting in the bleachers watching the training and the beefy boys with great interest.” Often these girls initiated sexual relationships, Stefka claims. Unfortunately, Endre Aczél, a talented and knowledgeable journalist whom I hold in high regard, showed his worst side by accusing Zsuzsanna’s parents of making a victim of their over-sexed daughter. Since then Aczél has apologized and taken down his comment from his Facebook page.

And, of course, there are those on the other side who argue that a crime as heinous as a gang rape cannot be forgiven, regardless of the number of gold medals and the fifty-five years. What I think bothers a lot of people is that Kiss, who even wrote an autobiography, never mentioned the time he spent in jail for rape. They are also bothered by Kiss’s attempts to blame the girl, who by now is not even alive and therefore cannot defend herself and her reputation.

I just heard on HírTV that sexual abuse is far too common in competitive swimming. Just in the United States 100 swim coaches have been banned for life from ever coaching. It might be an interesting undertaking to investigate the possible reasons for the prevalence of sexual crimes in the world of swimming. In Hungary there was already one revelation when Nikolett Szepesi came out with a book about “what’s going on around the pool.” I wouldn’t be surprised if, after the Kiss affair, we heard a lot more.

April 8, 2016
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petofi
Guest

“It might be an interesting undertaking to investigate the possible reasons for the prevalence of sexual crimes in the world of swimming.”

Allow me to make a stab at it: pretty, young, nubile ladies in sexy swimming suits…After you order them about regularly, the dreadful
Hun of yore escapes its mental chains within and rounds into action–

Guest

“in the world of swimming” (yankees included)

Guest

What are you trying to tell us? Sexual harassment is everywhere in sports – the point is, how is it handled?

Guest

A bit OT:

Another big problem in sports, especially, but not only in the Communist States was (and still is as we see from media reports) the massive doping which destroyed many young sports people’s lives.

Is there any info on this happening in Hungary too?

There was a big scandal in Germany a few years ago when it was found out that professors and doctors at the university of Freiburg was involved in systematic doping too.

Ron
Guest

Doping in Hungary is just as big as anywhere else. In the past there were scandals (2004 Athens Olympic Games), And as a result some checks were implemented, resulting that some sports people stopped professional sports.

http://www.radio.cz/en/section/ice_special/hungary-outraged-over-doping-scandal-at-athens-olympics?set_default_version=1
http://hungarytoday.hu/news/top-hungarian-kayakers-banned-10-months-cocaine-scandal-99114
http://www.xpatloop.com/news/huge_effort_to_prevent_doping_scandals_in_hungary

Most of the doping is not about improving performance, but about quicker bouncing back from heavy performance, and some times it is a fine line. What is allowed and what is not. See the latest victim Maria Sharapova.

webber
Guest

“victim Maria Sharapova.”
Wolfi is right (see below). Are you joking? Sharapova a “victim?”

Tyrker
Guest

Massive doping is one of the reasons the world as a whole ought to stop worshipping the god of Professional Sport and channel resources toward leisure sports instead.

webber
Guest

Very OT –
The EU – as a whole – might soon impose visa requirements on US and Canadian citizens. Indeed, the EU is required to by legislation recently passed. Story below:
https://euobserver.com/justice/132983

I’m sure Moscow is pleased.

Guest

The background:
Some EU countries are not part of the Visa Waiver Program – Poland eg. And the EU is angry about that.
Even more OT:
I was so happy when I read that Hungary would become part of the VWP in 2008 – one day after the membership my wife and I flew to Miami Beach for a week to “test” whether she might like to go on holiday in the USA.
And yes, she did! 🙂

Guest

“victim Maria Sharapova” ?

Is this meant as a joke?

Re sexual abuse in sports – here’s another case from the USA:
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/09/former-us-house-speaker-dennis-hastert-accused-of-molesting-four-boys
I’m sure (even though I’m not interested in commercial sports at all) that it happens all the time – old teachers and trainers and young, nubile teenagers (or even pre-teens).

Istvan
Guest
The Hastert case here in Illinois was during his time as a High School wrestling coach before he became a politican. The best article on his time as a wrestling coach can be read at http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/October-2015/Dennis-Hastert/ Hastert was a reasonably good high school wrestler himself, but at the college level wrestled for a third rate Chrisitan College but was injured and stopped. Like Hungary’s swimming history Illinois, and Iowa have a big history in wrestling. Hastert is actually in the USA national wrestling hall of fame. He is a terrible stain on the sport, which I too was an athlete in at both the high school, college and pre-Olympic level wrestling for the USA team in the national trials. Hastert and my own high school wrestling careers crossed at the Illinois State championships one year but we were in different weight classes and never competed against each other. So like the historic Hungarian swimming program is deeply impacted by the scandal it is facing, so has wrestling in the State of Illinois. By the way training is harsh in wrestling too and there were some coaches that abused their wrestlers physically at the high school level, but any abuse at… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Yesterday’s topic:

The Fidesz-appointed [unnecessary] offshore companies have obtained between

79 and 95 BILLION forints of profit for selling green card bonds to 3446 to foreigners outside the EU since 2013.

We have every reason to believe that most of the profit has ended up in the offshore accounts of the Fidesz leaders.

http://mno.hu/gazdasag/kevesbe-kapos-a-letelepedesi-kotveny-1336736

Gabor Toka
Guest
Not just Bayer but Nepszabadsag too had their main opinion piece on the Kiss story looking for a conspiracy theory that explains why some people want to bring up such an old and dusty story against the great national pride-generator. Except that Nepszabadsag interpreted this as a Fidesz-inspired attack on the leadership of the Swimming Association, which remains probably the only major sport federation in the country that is not yet headed by a Fidesz MP (or a personal envoy of the prime minister, which is what the footballers got), and thus needs an urgent takeover before the gold medals would flow in at the 2017 European Swimming Championship in Budapest. I guess this may even be true, but overlooks the main thing, which is that large parts of public opinion are not ready [any more] to stomach the kind of things that some others have been and are still ready to accept in the name of protecting national pride (but maybe also when they cannot cite such justification and just have to declare that they do not care about gang rape). Unfortunately, I cannot find the same positive explanation for the EU all of a sudden becoming so principled… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Journalist Endre Aczel was banned from writing in Nepszabadsag in the future for the following facebook comments he made:

comment image

Guest

Interesting remark by Bayer saying Kiss gave ‘joy’ to the kids in competitive swimming so his actions before should be forgotten. Reminded me of Kobe Bryant the NBA great. Back in ’03 he was hauled into court allegedly for sexually assaulting a hotel worker. The woman did not testify and the case went out of court. He was cleared of the charges but said he didn’t do any assaulting and everything was consensual.

Since that time Mr. Bryant apparently has dispensed with that image in the past and has won numerous titles for his team and giving ‘joy’ to his supporters. Since that time it appears he has ‘atoned’ for an event that compromised his reputation in a very bad way since he was married when the alleged deed was done. Today people seem to love him and his basketball feats.

From the looks of it with Kiss it sure doesn’t seem that way since to some he apparently has not done enough to dump off his so called ‘monkey’ he’s got on his back that he’s been carrying for quite a while. No penance no closure for some.

spectator
Guest
In my opinion the title “investigative journalist” is rather bold. In reality it’s the worst kind of scavenging, in total disregard of the integrity of all involved — yes, the victims too — but generously spiced with assumptions instead. All of the participants already well over 70, — Zsuzsanna already deceased — with families, siblings, children and grandchildren and all that, who suddenly found themselves in the middle of a pretty disgusting media-event, ashamed for something what happened more than half a century ago and they’re completely innocent in every respect. According to such ‘journalism’ would they be counted as “collaterals”, what worth it anyway? He said that he “acted on a hint” and went after the “documents”, and hasn’t finished yet with the story. There “must have been” a payback from Kiss’s side in exchange of the shorter sentence and the chance to work as a coach soon after. He even hinted that the payback may have been political in nature, what he may have been blackmailed into. Indeed, those were the times when such things were rather common. However, I would rather hold back my assumptions, if I have no solid facts to support my theories. One more… Read more »
Member

“Zsolt Bayer, the anti-Semitic writer for Magyar Hírlap, defends Kiss because “Kiss claims the encounter was consensual” and in any case, even if it were true, it can be forgotten due to the tremendous joy Kiss gave Hungarians…”

Bayer, uncouth scum though he may be, merely reflects the views of Orban and many in the Fidesz ranks.

With regards women?
They are mere objects and if a few of the good ole boys sometimes get “over-enthusiastic” and give their spouse a good punch or rape teenagers (who are, obviously, always consensual), then, who cares?

That is the historic, traditional and Orbánist way of seeing women’s place in society.

Tyrker
Guest

This doesn’t have anything to do with party affiliation, see Endre Aczél’s opinion.
There’s more of a generational divide here. Older (Aczél) and middle-aged (Bayer) men in general tend to have this appalling attitude toward women, whereas the younger generations are (rightfully) outraged.

Guest

Rather OT but maybe important:

http://bbj.hu/politics/unnamed-source-reportedly-says-fidesz-will-go-into-campaign-mode-in-september_114243
The plans reportedly included creation of more Fidesz-friendly media, through several steps, such as: establishment of Magyar Idők and online tabloid 888.hu; efforts to ensure that the ownership of TV2 is Fidesz-friendly; and transformation of the Hungarian state-owned media, with moves such as the establishment of state all-news TV station M1, vs.hu reported, citing its unnamed source.

The vs.hu unnamed source reportedly said Fidesz would seek to keep the refugee crisis in the news if it could, but the agreement between the EU and Turkey to reduce the migrant flow probably means the issue will not stay topical until 2018.

And:

Apparently, this means the government will not address major health care reform until after voting in 2018, vs.hu reported.
You gotta have your priorities – take care of the media so that no bad news about the rotten health care gets out …
Pretty, ain’t it so?

Tyrker
Guest

The day when Bayer sided with Aczél marked a milestone in the history of Hungarian journalism. The last time this may’ve happened must have been over 20 years ago when both journalists were working for Népszabadság.

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