Gymnasts speak out for first time about sex abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor
At least 60 women have come forward with sex abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
The case was the subject of a 60 Minutes report Sunday, and our media partners at the IndyStar have reported extensively on the case.
The 60 Minutes report included several alleged victims who talked publicly for the first time about Nassar, a former trainer and doctor for Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics who worked with female gymnasts for more than two decades.
The women accuse Nassar of inappropriate touching and say he didn’t wear gloves.
“He started massaging me. And– he had asked me not to wear any underwear. And then he just continued to go into more and more intimate places,” said gymnast Jessica Howard.
“I mean, it happened all the way to the Olympics in Sydney, till I was 18,” said gymnast Jamie Dantzscher.
The girls said they didn’t say anything because they thought it was treatment meant to help them get better.
“Because this is somebody who is a serial predator. But the story here is that no one was watching to protect these girls. And they put medals and money first,” said John Manly, an attorney representing more than 40 women accusing Nassar of wrongdoing.
Manly said there could be hundreds of victims.
“I believe what–at the end of the day there are members of every single Olympic team since 1996 he did this to. That’s what we’re gonna end up with,” Manly said.
An IndyStar report last week found USA Gymnastics conducted an internal investigation and waited five weeks before reporting Nassar to authorities. The organization had said it “immediately” reported the allegations involving Nassar, who’s in a Michigan jail charged with possession of child pornography and criminal sexual conduct in unrelated cases.
USA Gymnastics released the following statement about the 60 Minutes report:
“USA Gymnastics cares deeply for our athletes of all skill levels and ages. They are the heart and soul of our sport, and their health and well-being comes before all else. We believe one instance of child abuse – whether at a school, church or gym – is one too many, and we are saddened when any child has been harmed during his or her athletic career. We work every day to help young people fulfill their potential in a safe environment, and keeping them safe requires as much diligence and attention as training for competition.
“Regarding Dr. Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics is appalled that anyone would exploit a young athlete or child in the manner alleged. We are grateful to the athletes that brought their concerns about Dr. Nassar to USA Gymnastics in the summer of 2015. When we first learned of these concerns, we acted without hesitation. We hired an investigator who interviewed athletes, which led USA Gymnastics to report Dr. Nassar to the FBI. We then removed him from any further assignments. During the course of the FBI investigation, USA Gymnastics cooperated fully including facilitating interviews and adhering to the FBI’s request not to take any action that would interfere with the Bureau’s investigation.
“Keeping athletes safe requires sustained vigilance by everyone – coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and officials – and there is more work to be done. We are determined to strengthen standards throughout the sport.
“USA Gymnastics has engaged Deborah J. Daniels, a former federal prosecutor, to conduct a comprehensive independent review of USA Gymnastics’ bylaws, policies, procedures and practices related to these issues. She is expected to make her recommendations to the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors in the second quarter of 2017.
“The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors has also established a Policy Review Panel to address modifications to our existing programs, policies and processes. This panel’s efforts complement Daniels’ independent review, and it will work closely with USA Gymnastics staff to ensure the organization takes the appropriate steps to fully implement recommendations, policy changes and governance matters while moving forward with refining its practices. This is especially important given the emerging U.S. Center for Safe Sport and its requirements for compliance.
“USA Gymnastics supports the development of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, an independent agency established to oversee Safe Sport in the USA, similar to how the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency oversees anti-doping in our country. We are hopeful that this new agency, which is expected to open within weeks, will provide important leadership on Safe Sport and support for the entire U.S. Olympic movement.
“Nothing is more important to USA Gymnastics than protecting young people. Their health and well-being is our priority, and USA Gymnastics is committed to doing everything we can to promote a safe environment for athletes.”