BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian national swim coach Laszlo Kiss resigned on Thursday after an old conviction for a sex crime resurfaced in local media earlier this week, reigniting a public outcry.
The Hungarian Swimming Association had stood by Kiss, 75, who was convicted in 1961 and served 20 months of a three-year prison sentence for taking part in the gang-rape of a young swimmer.
But in a statement quoted by national news agency MTI on Thursday, Kiss said he was stepping down as national coach.
“Considering the interests of Hungarian sports, and my ill health due to the attacks against me, I decided to resign as of today,” he said.
He added in his statement that he had been jailed based on fabricated charges in a politically motivated lawsuit by then communist-ruled Hungary and he said he would fight to clear his name.
“I state that I never under any circumstances committed the crime that was in the verdict,” he said.
Kiss, who was training the Hungarian swimming team for the 2016 Rio Olympics, was convicted in 1961 with two other swimmers for attacking the young swimmer.
After serving part of the three-year jail sentence, he returned to swimming and became a successful coach, guiding such stars as five-time Olympic gold medalist Krisztina Egerszegi.
His successor now is slated to be Andras Hargitay, 60, a world champion medley specialist from the 1970s.
The Hungarian Swimming Association and Committee of Coaches had both voiced support for Kiss on Wednesday.
Kiss himself has not answered Reuters phone calls.
“Because neither the courts nor other authorities barred me from coaching kids (in the 1960s), I got a new chance and I used it,” Kiss told the web site nol.hu this week.
“Anyone can see Hungary’s swimming results in recent decades and decide whether I proved myself or not.”
Hungarian swimming has seen its share of sex scandals. In a 2013 book, the former swimmer Nikolett Szepesi accused unnamed massage therapists of sexual assault. Several former swimmers corroborated her claim.
In 2014, the United Nations children’s rights organization UNICEF published a report on youth sports in Hungary and said 31 percent of respondents had been subject to sexual assault.
Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Richard Balmforth