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Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee says she was pepper sprayed in racist attack

By Jonna Lorenz
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Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee says she was pepper sprayed in racist attack
Sunisa Lee of the United States performs on the balance beam during the women's individual apparatus artistic gymnastics final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre at the Tokyo Olympic Games  on August 3. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee said she was pepper sprayed during a racist attack in Los Angeles.

Lee discussed the attack during an interview with Pop Sugar published Thursday. The gold medal winner said she was waiting for an Uber with a group of Asian American friends when a vehicle pulled up and its occupants yelled racist slurs and told them to go back to where they came from.

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One passenger sprayed Lee's arm with pepper spray before the car sped off.

"I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off," Lee told Pop Sugar. "I didn't do anything to them, and having the reputation, it's so hard because I didn't want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen."

Lee, 18, told CNN the incident occurred in October, when she was in Los Angeles to compete in Dancing with the Stars.

Lee grew up in a Hmong community in St. Paul, Minn., and won the all-around gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

During 2020, hate crimes rose to their highest levels in 12 years, the FBI reported, with crimes against Asian Americans rising by 76%. A hate crime is any violent or property crime with a bias motivation.

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Last month, the Justice Department announced plans to earmark $21 million to prosecute hate crimes and provide assistance to victims.

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