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TARNISHED HERO: ROMANCE WITH MARRIED DAD OF 4 MAY RUIN NADIA’S PUBLIC APPEAL

SHARE TARNISHED HERO: ROMANCE WITH MARRIED DAD OF 4 MAY RUIN NADIA’S PUBLIC APPEAL

Nadia Comaneci will need her nimblest footwork since her perfect score on the balance beam to salvage her marketing potential, now that her relationship with a married father of four children has been made public.

"I think there are some problems. No one is going to touch her right now," said Jay Ogden, senior vice president of International Management Group, which handles endorsements for U.S. gymnast Bart Connors."She's an intriguing sports figure. But advertisers and companies have to be very careful," Ogden said Wednesday. "There have to be some answers. She's got to avoid the negatives."

Sports agents believe there may still be marketability for Comaneci, the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 in the Olympics. She slogged six hours through mud and ice Nov. 28 to flee her native Romania and now has refugee status in the United States.

"Time will tell. If it's a one-day furor, it won't make any difference," said Leigh Steinberg, a Los Angeles agent who represents about 100 athletes.

Comaneci's flight around what's left of the Iron Curtain was arranged by Romanian emigre Constantin Panait, 34, a self-employed south Florida roofer who has a wife and four children. The two met at a party in 1987 in Bucharest, and Comaneci knew he was married.

"So what? It didn't matter," said the 28-year-old Comaneci.

But it may matter to corporations, which routinely require escape clauses that can void endorsement contracts if athletes engage in compromising behavior.

Comaneci's refugee status is not in jeopardy, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It determined she would be persecuted for her political views if she returned to Romania.