USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal

The USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal is a series of criminal activities involving the sexual abuse of female athletes, including minors, by Larry Nassar, D.O., a former USA Gymnastics national team osteopathic physician. He is named in hundreds of lawsuits filed by athletes who allege that Nassar sexually abused them under the pretense of giving them medical treatment. Since the first public allegations were made in September 2016, over 140 women, including former USA Gymnastics national team members Jamie Dantzscher, Jeanette Antolin, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, and Jordyn Wieber, have accused Nassar of sexually abusing them. Nassar pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges and was sentenced to 60 years in prison on December 7, 2017. On November 22, 2017, he pleaded guilty to seven charges of first-degree sexual assault and entered another guilty plea on November 29, 2017 to three additional charges of sexual assault.

USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where Nassar was a faculty member, have been accused of negligence and are named as defendants in civil lawsuits that former gymnasts have filed against Nassar.[1][2][3]

Sex abuse allegations[]

Larry Nassar was a licensed osteopathic physician and the national team sports-medicine doctor for USA Gymnastics.[4][5] He also ran a clinic and gymnastics club at Michigan State University,[4] where he was a faculty member.[1] USA Gymnastics fired Nassar in 2015 "after learning of athlete concerns."[6]

In September 2016, The Indianapolis Star revealed that two former gymnasts had made allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar. Following those allegations, Michigan State University reassigned Nassar from his clinical and teaching duties and fired him later that month.[6] Since then, over 150 people have accused Nassar of sexually abusing them.[7] According to these allegations, Nassar committed sexual assault during medical examinations, ranging from inserting a finger in the gymnasts' vaginas and anuses, to fondling their breasts and genitalia. Nassar initially denied the charges, claiming he was performing legitimate medical procedures.[1] In February 2017, three former gymnasts, Jeanette Antolin, Jessica Howard and Jamie Dantzscher, gave an interview with 60 Minutes in which they accused Nassar of sexually abusing them. The gymnasts also alleged that the "emotionally abusive environment" at the national team training camps run by Béla and Márta Károlyi at the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas gave Nassar an opportunity to take advantage of the gymnasts and made them afraid to speak up about the abuse.[8] On October 18, 2017, Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, using the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter, alleged that Nassar repeatedly molested her, starting when she was 13 years old and until she retired from the sport in 2016.[5] During a November 12, 2017 60 Minutes interview, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman also accused Nassar of sexually abusing her.[9] In a statement posted to Instagram on November 21, 2017, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas said she was also a victim of Nassar's alleged abuse.[10]

On November 22, 2017, Nassar pled guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual contact with underage girls in an Ingham County, Michigan courtroom (the county containing Michigan State's home city of East Lansing). Three of the victims were under the age of 13 and three ranged in age from 13 to 15.[11] Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast with USA Gymnastics, said in court in May 2017 that Nassar sexually abused her on five doctor's visits in 2000, when she was 15 years of age.[12] Raisman stated that Nassar also molested her when she was 15 years of age.[11] On November 17 (a few days before she made her allegation), Gabby Douglas drew criticism from fellow Olympic teammate Simone Biles and others for making a tweet that they interpreted as criticizing Raisman and of "victim-shaming,"[11] stating that "dressing in a provocative/sexual way incites the wrong crowd."[13] Douglas later apologized for the tweet, insinuating that she had also been abused by Nassar.[14]

On December 20, 2017, Maroney filed a lawsuit against Nassar, Michigan State University, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics.[15] The lawsuit accuses USA Gymnastics of covering up the sexual abuse by making Maroney sign a $1.25 million non-disclosure agreement.[16]

On January 9, 2018, Maggie Nichols, former National Team member, accused Nassar of abusing her, documenting the ways he "groomed" her by connecting with her on Facebook and complimenting her appearance on numerous occasions.[17] It was also reported that it was Nichols's coach, Sarah Jantzi, who first reported Nassar to USA Gymnastics on June 17, 2015, after overhearing Nichols talk to another gymnast about Nassar's behavior.[18]

On January 15, 2018, Simone Biles came forward with allegations that she too had been sexually abused by Nassar.[19]

On January 19, 2018, Jordyn Wieber made a statement at Nassar's court sentencing in which she also accused Nassar of sexually abusing her during her time at USA Gymnastics.[20][21]

Arrest and guilty plea[]

In December 2016, Nassar was arrested on federal child pornography charges. According to the FBI, over 37,000 images and videos of child pornography were seized from Nassar's home, including a GoPro video of Nassar allegedly molesting girls in a swimming pool.[22] Nassar pled guilty to federal child pornography charges on July 11, 2017,[23] and was sentenced to 60 years in prison on December 7, 2017.[24] On November 15, 2017, it was announced that Nassar would plead guilty to counts of sexual assault in Ingham and Eaton Counties in Michigan.[25] He was facing charges that under the guise of providing legitimate treatment, he had instead molested seven girls at his home and at a clinic on the MSU campus.[26] It was also stated that Nassar would enter a guilty plea in Ingham County on November 22 and will then plead guilty in Eaton County on November 29 and will serve at least 25 years in prison for these crimes.[25][26]

During his appearance before Judge Rosemarie Aquiliana in Ingham County Circuit Court,[27] Nassar pled guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct charges. Under the terms of his plea agreement with Michigan prosecutors, he was sentenced to 25 to 40 years in prison.[28] Nassar made a short statement apologizing and saying he was hopeful the community could move forward: "For all those involved, I'm so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control. I have no animosity toward anyone. I just want healing. ... We need to move forward in a sense of growth and healing and I pray (for) that".

In his Eaton County Circuit Court appearance, Nassar pled guilty to engaging in sexual misconduct with three children under the age of 16.[29]

Reactions[]

USA Gymnastics[]

According to a 2016 investigation reported by The Indianapolis Star, top executives at USA Gymnastics routinely dismissed sexual abuse allegations against coaches and failed to alert authorities.[30][31]

USA Gymnastics said that its executives first learned of an athlete's concern regarding Nassar in June 2015. Following an investigation, Nassar was fired and reported to the FBI in July 2015.[32] In March 2017, USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny resigned amid accusations of negligence[2] and calls for his dismissal.[33] In response to the scandal, USA Gymnastics adopted reforms based on a June 2017 report by an investigator hired to review the organization's policies and practices. One of the changes is a requirement that all USA Gymnastics members report any suspected sexual misconduct to appropriate authorities and the US Center for SafeSport.[34]

USA Gymnastics has received criticism over its handling of the sexual abuse allegations against Nassar.[35][36] United States Senators criticized the organization's leadership for waiting five weeks before reporting Nassar to authorities after first learning of allegations involving Nassar in 2015.[37] Juliet Macur of The New York Times was critical of USA Gymnastics for not attending the 2017 congressional hearing on protecting young athletes from sexual abuse, and noted that the organization had not apologized for its role in the scandal.[38] Two-time Olympian Aly Raisman was also critical of USA Gymnastics' response to the scandal, pointing out that the reported $1 million severance package given to former president Penny could have been used to create a program to help the affected athletes.[39]

Amid the sex abuse scandal, USA Gymnastics lost several major corporate sponsors, including Procter & Gamble, Kellogg's, Under Armour and The Hershey Company.[40][41]

On January 18, 2018 USA Gymnastics officially cut ties with Karolyi Ranch.[42]

Michigan State University[]

Michigan State University said that it first received a complaint against Nassar in 2014. An investigation into the complaint found no violation of policy, and Nassar was allowed to continue treating patients under certain agreed upon restrictions. After allegations against Nassar were made public by The Indianapolis Star, Nassar was fired by Michigan State for violating the 2014 agreement.[22]

The university faces 144 lawsuits filed by former gymnasts who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar.[43] Former Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was suspended on February 13, 2017, and retired the next day, amidst the sexual abuse investigation of Nassar.[44] Klages has been accused of dismissing sexual abuse complaints by former gymnasts against Nassar and pressuring them to stay silent.[43] According to court documents, Klages was reportedly aware of sexual abuse allegations against Nassar as early as 1997.[44]

Senate[]

In response to the sexual abuse allegations made against Nassar, as well as personnel involved with USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo, United States Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill that would require National Governing Body (NGB) Members overseeing Olympic sports to immediately report sexual assault allegations to law enforcement or designated child-welfare agencies.[45] Former gymnasts Dominique Moceanu, Jamie Dantzscher and Jessica Howard, testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 28, 2017, concerning the bill.[46][38] Rick Adams, chief of Paralympic sports for the United States Olympic Committee and head of organizational development for the NGBs, stated at the hearing: "We do take responsibility, and we apologize to any young athlete who has ever faced abuse." USA Gymnastics was asked to testify at the hearing, but declined.[38]

See also[]

References[]

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  6. ^ a b "Dr. Larry Nassar, Accused of Abuse by Olympic Gymnast, Is Fired". NBC News. September 20, 2016. 
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