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McKayla Maroney files lawsuit, says USA Gymnastics tried to cover up sexual abuse with settlement

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05: Mc Kayla Maroney of United States looks on during the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Vault final on Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, Calif.– Olympic gold medal gymnast McKayla Maroney filed a lawsuit alleging USA Gymnastics paid for her silence in regards to sexual abuse she experienced by a former team doctor.

The lawsuit also claims Michigan State University and the US Olympic Committee “failed to properly investigate, discipline or remove Olympic Team doctor Larry Nassar.”

Nassar, who served as the MSU and US Olympic team doctor for two decades, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges on December 7.

Maroney described her alleged abuse in October.

“It started when I was 13 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport. It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated.’ It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and It happened before I won my Silver,” she said.

The lawsuit alleges she “was forced to agree to a non-disparagement clause and confidentiality provision, in the above-mentioned settlement agreement, that brought with it liquidated damages penalties of over $100,000, should she or other affiliated non-parties speak of her abuse or The Settlement.”

“And then it went further and it said by the way you can’t even say anything negative about USA Gymnastics ever, ever and by the way all those provisions including the stuff about not telling anyone apply to your parents as well even though they’re not parties in the agreement we can sue you and them,” Maroney’s attorney, John Manly said.

Manly says the settlement agreement was in violation of California law, “and for the purpose of silencing a known victim of Nassar.”

“That agreement is still unenforceable in California and what our lawsuit against USA Gymnastics simply says is look in California you can’t enforce this and you can’t enforce it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it hurts kids,” Manly said.

“The US Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics were well aware that the victim of child sexual abuse in California cannot be forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of a settlement. Such agreements are illegal for very good reasons, they silence victims and allow perpetrators to continue committing their crimes. That is exactly what happened in this case,” he said.

USA Gymnastics issued this statement regarding the lawsuit:

USA Gymnastics learned today from media reports that McKayla Maroney has filed a lawsuit against it, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University related to abuse by Larry Nassar. That filing apparently seeks to nullify provisions in a prior settlement agreement between USA Gymnastics and McKayla. Contrary to reports, the concept of confidentiality was initiated by McKayla’s attorney, not USA Gymnastics.

In 2016, McKayla’s attorney at the time, Gloria Allred, approached USA Gymnastics, requesting that the organization participate in a confidential mediation process. USA Gymnastics cannot speak to the mediation process, which is confidential and privileged under California law. The process culminated in a settlement agreement that included a mutual non-disclosure clause and a mutual non-disparagement clause.  The settlement in 2016 was in accordance with state law, despite what has been alleged.  At all times, McKayla was represented by Allred, a California-based attorney, who actively negotiated and approved the settlement agreement signed by McKayla.

Although USA Gymnastics is disappointed by today’s filing, we applaud McKayla and others who speak up against abusive behavior — including the despicable acts of Larry Nassar.  We want to work together with McKayla and others to help encourage and empower athletes to speak up against abuse.   USA Gymnastics new CEO Kerry Perry is eager to speak personally with McKayla to hear her ideas on how to move the sport forward and to discuss the many safe sport enhancements that have already been implemented at USA Gymnastics.

Nassar has been accused by more than 140 girls and women of molesting them by placing his un-gloved hand in their vaginas under the guise of medical treatment. His alleged victims were as young as 9 years old.

Nassar admitted in his guilty pleas that these “treatments” were in fact criminal sexual abuse.

Nassar’s alleged victims include three members of the 2012 Gold Medal Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Team Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney.

“A simple fact is this. If Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee had paid attention to any of the red flags in Larry Nassar’s behavior I never would have met him, I never would have been ‘treated’ by him and I never would have been abused by him,” said Maroney.