LOS ANGELES – Jubilant Iraqis were seen cheering as an enormous statue of Saddam was pulled down in Baghdad Wednesday, but former Iraqi Olympians remain haunted by the torture they endured from Uday Hussein, the dictator’s infamously vicious son.
Issam Thamer Aldiwan, a former Iraqi Olympic volleyball player now living in El Cajon, Calif., can’t forget the horrors he endured under the Hussein regime before he escaped to America.
Athletes were routinely jailed and tortured for losing or disobeying orders from Uday, head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, Aldiwan said.
Aldiwan said he spent three months in prison for refusing to steal equipment from the Kuwaiti team. While jailed, he said he endured “three days without anything -- no drink, no food -- anything, nothing.”
Con Coughlin, author of Saddam: King of Terror, told Fox News that he had personally spoken with athletes that were tortured at such a complex.
“The Iraqi Olympic organization developed a reputation for great brutality in the basement of the headquarters of this facility in Baghdad where there's a prison complex," Coughlin told Fox News. "Uday himself would come down and supervise the torture."
Najem Alekabi, a former wrestler, said he was badly wounded by Uday’s bodyguard after he was overheard making negative statements about the regime.
“He shot me, shot me with a gun, shot me in the back, with hole in my chest,” Alekabi said.
Aldiwan’s brother, Hussain, also a volleyball player, said Uday would often administer the torture himself, taking pleasure in the humiliation of athletes he felt didn’t measure up.
“He killed a lot of people,” he said.
“He put him on the floor and he pee on him, just pee on him, and they laugh, and the guy covers his head and this is a human being in Iraq, this is the regime in Iraq.”
According to Newsweek editor Mike Hirsch, not even Saddam could tolerate Uday's uncontrollable temper.
"Uday appears to have gone somewhat over the top, even for Saddam Hussein," he told Fox News. "[Saddam] has punished him apparently by removing any important jobs from his portfolio and giving him these rather marginal-type jobs: head of the Olympic committee, a newspaper to run, really no important levels of power."
It seems Uday, Saddam’s eldest son, couldn't manage to keep up with even those responsibilities without playing out his homicidal ways. Under his direction, the Olympic committee taught everything but good sportsmanship.
"There are many stories of Uday raping women and killing the boyfriends of girlfriends who protest when Uday makes advances," Coughlin said. "Uday was his father's pride. Unfortunately, Uday became somewhat of a psychopath."
Ali Sharif, president of the Iraqi National Congress, told Fox News that Saddam exposed his sons at an early age to executions and torture so one day they could lead the country in his way. "The two sons of Saddam Hussein really are incredibly evil," said Sharif. "They take pleasure in torture and murder, just because that's their nature."
Saddam and his sons are currently nowhere to be found, but whether they are dead or alive, the brutal regime lives on through painful memories.
It’s been nearly 25 years since the tortured Olympians played on their home turf, but if Issam has his way he will go back to Iraq to rebuild the Olympic program, ensuring that future generations of Iraqi athletes can compete in an arena free of fear.
Fox News' Amy C. Sims contributed to this report.