“Armed with pieces of paper etched with memories of sexual abuse, several USA Olympic gymnasts stepped forward, one by one, nearly 100 of them, women and girls, for 4 full days this week, some of the best gymnasts in the country, and said, Dr. Larry Nassar, USA Olympic gymnasts team doctor had Sexually Abused them.
Gold medal winners and others at the past two Summer Olympics and other events testified. One told of late-night knocks on her hotel door while she was competing overseas, as the man, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, then the team doctor, arrived to abuse her.
“A teammate at the 2012 London Games, recalled the torment of the Games, said, she had to submit to his care under the auspices of the sport’s governing body, U.S.A. Gymnastics.
“Our bodies were all hanging by a thread in London,” she said. “Who was the doctor that U.S.A.G. sent? The doctor who was our abuser.”
“For other young athletes just beginning their careers, there seemed little they could do but give in to him, buckling under the pressure of knowing so many stars had seemingly benefited from him.
“Another young gymnast named, now 15, spoke of anguished probing of her body, under the guise of treatment, face down on an exam room table when she was 13, feeling helpless to challenge a doctor at that age.
“The judge in Michigan state court hearing said that Dr. Nassar, 54, who has pleaded guilty to several sexual-assault charges, can expect to spend the rest of his life in prison.
“There had been victim impact statements from the 140 girls and women whom prosecutors accused Dr. Nassar of abusing, leading to days of wrenching testimony here that has evolved into not only a nationally televised reckoning of his crimes but an indictment of a sport that his victims say did little to protect them.
Some of the victims described how the team doctor’s actions spawned suicidal thoughts and ruptured their families, how they hoped he would rot in prison, and how they desperately wanted the blame and repercussions to extend far beyond him — to the people and the organizations that turned a blind eye.
“One gymnast, now a high school student, spoke about how she was taken to Dr. Nassar for back and hip treatment when she was a 13-year-old runner. Dr. Nassar, she said, placed her on a table on her stomach and then molested her. She described how he left the room, returned with a lubricant and repeated the abuse. He then smacked her on her “bare butt,” called her “sweetie” and told her that if she ever had her period when she came to see him, to be sure to let him know, she said.
“How was I supposed to know at the age of 13 what was medically acceptable and what the boundaries were?” she said.
Her sister was also abused. Now 15, she told the court that as a 12-year-old gymnast, she was sent to Dr. Nassar for back treatment and underwent the same abuse. “At only 12 years old, I had no idea that it was inappropriate, illegal and wrong,” she said.
Another gymnast, 22, another Olympic gymnast, said she had “scars” that might never heal after being abused by Dr. Nassar, starting when she was 13 or 14.
Dr. Nassar pleaded guilty to molestation charges and seven counts of sexual assault in November, 2017.
“Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of,” one victim said. “Nobody was ever concerned whether or not we were being sexually abused.”
She took clear aim at both U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee.
“Neither U.S.A. Gymnastics nor the U.S.O.C. have reached out to express sympathy or even offer support,” she said. “Not even to ask: ‘How did this happen? What do you think we can do to help?’ Why have I and others here, probably, not heard anything from the leadership at the U.S.O.C.? Why has the United States Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn’t the U.S.O.C. here right now?”
Mark Jones, a spokesman for the Olympic committee, said in a statement that it first became aware of the possibility that a physician with the gymnastics federation had been abusing athletes in 2015.
“At that time, U.S.A. Gymnastics indicated that they were in the process of contacting the appropriate law enforcement agencies,” Mr. Jones said. “We are heartbroken that this abuse occurred, proud of the brave victims that have come forward and grateful that our criminal justice system has ensured that Nassar will never be able to harm another young woman.”
“At the same time, Mr. Jones said, the Olympic committee will continue to press for ‘meaningful change’ in the gymnastics federation.
The federation announced on Thursday that it would cut ties with Karolyi Ranch, a renowned training facility that was one of the places where Dr. Nassar molested the gymnasts. “The development camp taking place through Sunday is the last U.S.A. Gymnastics activity at the Ranch,” the federation said in a statement on Friday.
“Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” she said in a statement read for her by a prosecutor. “He in fact is, was, and forever shall be, a child molester, and a monster of a human being. End of story.”
The impact of the trial, and Dr. Nassar’s history of assault, is spreading well beyond the courtroom. Michigan State University, which employed Dr. Nassar, was also facing increasing pressure after revelations that 14 people, including the university president, had been warned about his conduct.
Please read complete accounts: [One After Another, Athletes Face Larry Nassar and Recount Sexual Abuse by SCOTT CACCIOLA and CHRISTINE HAUSER JAN. 19, 2018 NY Times] [Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar Pleads Guilty to Molestation Charges NOV. 22, 2017 NY Times]