Gymnast Wins A Legal Round

She's won medals and notoriety. Now Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu appears to have won a highly public battle to become independent from her parents.

A week after the 17-year-old ran away from home and filed a lawsuit demanding to be declared a legal adult, her parents have agreed to drop their resistance, said David Gray, an attorney representing Moceanu.

State District Judge John Montgomery was to consider the deal Wednesday.

The settlement was reached Tuesday after Moceanu and her parents met face-to-face for the first time since she left home Oct. 18 and filed the lawsuit to gain more control over how her earnings are spent.

Moceanu had been scheduled to give a deposition to her parents' attorneys, but hours later family members said they had resolved their differences.

There was no answer Tuesday night at the home of Moceanu's parents, and attorneys for both sides declined comment. The gymnast, who moved into her own apartment over the weekend, could not be reached for comment.

Ellen Yarrell, an attorney appointed to guard Moceanu's rights, said the agreement "is in her best interest" but declined to elaborate.

In her lawsuit, Moceanu claimed her trust fund was being squandered by her father. She also said her earnings bankrolled a $4 million gym bearing her name and other, more risky investments, without her approval.

According to Yarrell, the trust is structured so that Moceanu won't obtain control over the assets until she turns 35. But if the Moceanus' parental rights are severed, Moceanu might be able to gain access to the funds earlier, she said.

Normally, a child doesn't become an adult under the law until age 18. Moceanu won't turn 18 until next September.

It's unclear how much money, if any, remains in the trust.

Moceanu, born in Los Angeles to Romanian-immigrant parents, was at age 14 the youngest member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team in Atlanta. She hopes to compete in the world championships next year and possibly the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

She moved to the Houston area with her parents in 1990 so she could train with Bela Karolyi, the celebrated coach of Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, and Kerri Strug. After the 1996 Games, Karolyi retired from elite coaching.

Last week, Moceanu's parents asked a judge to dismiss their daughter's lawsuit and a temporary restraining order she obtained against them. Under the agreement, all restraining orders have been removed, according to the family's statement.

The Olympic gold medalist said her flight was the result of months of arguments sparked by questions about her earnings.

"I want whatever I have earned to be under my control so I know how my earnings are being used, and I want to be able to train and compete in the sport I love for the right reason, because I love it, not because my father tells me I have to make more money," Moceanu said in a statement last week.

Her arents alleged in court documents that their daughter's coaches and a friend had convinced her to run away.

But Moceanu insisted that no one influenced her, saying she simply wanted answers about how the money she earned in her seven-year career was being spent.

Written by Pauline Arrillaga