US gymnast McKayla Maroney
US gymnast McKayla Maroney

Nude pics row: US star 'under age' when pics taken

NUDE photographs said to be of the American gymnast McKayla Maroney - leaked along with scores of intimate pictures of other celebrities - were taken when she was under age, it was reported.

Lawyers for the athlete, who was 18 in December last year, have successfully managed to get a number of websites, including a pornography site, to remove images of the athlete, who won gold at the London Olympics in 2012.

A spokesperson for told the US website TMZ that it had removed the photographs after it was contacted by Ms Maroney's lawyer.

Legal letters were also sent to websites stating that Ms Maroney owns the copyright on the pictures.

Ms Maroney has said the photos were faked and there was speculation that genuine images of her may have been doctored in some way.

She said on Twitter: "The fake photos of me are crazy!! Was trying to rise above it all, and not give 'the creator' the time of day ... BUT ... you sir, need Jesus."

The message was accompanied by picture of a cartoonish statue of Jesus giving a thumbs up.

She later tweeted: "Shout out to my fans for defending me all day long ... even when things got weird u stood by me. And that meant the world."

Her teammates have also rallied to her defence.

Aly Raisman, who was on the US gymnastics team with Ms Maroney, said on Twitter: "This scandal is not a joke and it is upsetting that an invasion of privacy results in entertainment for some.

"Every person is entitled to their own privacy. I am saddened that something like this has happened and I hope it never happens again."

Another teammate, Gabby Douglas, sent a message saying: "Love ya girl. #We AreStrong #Champions."

In addition to her world-beating talent, Ms Maroney is also known for her "unimpressed face", which became a meme on social media.

It became so popular that she was pictured alongside President Barack Obama as they both pulled the face.

The FBI is currently investigating the leak of nude photos and videos of more than 100 celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Rihanna.

But distributing sexual images of an under-age person would be a much more serious offence. Anyone who viewed or downloaded such images could also face prosecution for child abuse in the US, UK or elsewhere.

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