Romanian gymnastics great Nadia Comaneci has sprung to the defence of compatriot Ilie Nastase over his sexist tirades which marred Great Britain's Fed Cup defeat in Constanta.
But Comaneci, who has been a close friend of the two-time grand slam champion since they both peaked in their respective sports in the late 1970s, warned he must accept any punishment imposed by the International Tennis Federation.
Nastase was expelled midway through the World Group II play-off match after swearing at officials, GB captain Anne Keothavong and world number seven Johanna Konta.
Nastase was heard to call Keothavong and Konta "f***ing bitches" after the British team complained about calls from the crowd during points, while he also launched an astonishing rant at a Press Association journalist
In Cluj for the European Gymnastics Championships, Comaneci said: "Ilie is very patriotic and sometimes he says things that he doesn't really mean - it's just Ilie, and he will always be my friend.
"Of course Ilie is responsible for what comes out of his mouth, and I think it is important in sport that you keep the respect and good behaviour.
"He will have to deal with it (the consequences), but he can survive whatever happens to him. People make mistakes. Everybody in Romania loves Ilie because he is Ilie."
Nastase and Comaneci, who won five Olympic gymnastics gold medals and scored her sport's first perfect 10 in Montreal in 1976, are the two most high-profile sports stars in the country.
Few public figures in Romania have been willing to condemn Nastase's comments, with Konta's opponent Sorana Cirstea instead accusing the Briton of "exaggerating" the incident by briefly walking off the court.
Despite awaiting punishment by the ITF, Nastase has appeared unrepentant about his expulsion, and insisted he does not care what punishment he is given.
The 70-year-old said: "I don't regret it and they can send me to prison if they want - I don't care.
"I was just trying to promote the interest of my girl. The English player just stormed off without even asking permission to leave the court and I admit that's when I called her a bitch.
"She kept trying to keep the crowd quiet - but it's not an opera, it's a game.
"I don't need this bullsh*t. I'm 70 years old. I don't even get paid for being team captain. I don't give a sh*t if they fine me or don't let me sit in the captain's chair."