- Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has been accused of sexual abuse by dozens of his former patients.
- Gold medalist McKayla Maroney is the latest gymnast to allege that she was abused by Nassar.
- Accounts from his alleged victims have a troubling pattern.
Former USA Gymnastics chief medical director and Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar has been accused of sexual abuse by dozens of athletes over the past few years. But a personal account from his most well-known accuser yet, Olympian McKayla Maroney, has renewed scrutiny on his history.
Nassar started volunteering with USA Gymnastics in 1986 and got his MD from Michigan State seven years later. By the mid-1990s, he was USA Gymnastics’ top doctor, known for his medical expertise.
While some of Nassar’s victims began to voice their discomfort with his methods as early as the late ’90s, it wasn’t until September of 2016 that his alleged abuse became public knowledge. A report from the Indianapolis Star cited two of his former victims, and other firsthand accounts began to emerge.
Nassar eventually faced multiple criminal charges for his actions. While he maintained that he did not commit sexual abuse, he did plead guilty to three counts of child pornography in July. He has been in custody since December 2016, and his sentencing is set for November.
While many of Nassar’s alleged victims did not publicly attach their names to their accusations, several have done so. Here’s an overview of some of their stories, which portray a troubling pattern.
Denhollander, a former USA gymnast, accused Nassar of massaging her breast and digitally penetrating her on multiple occasions when she was 15 years old.
Denhollander began to develop chronic pain in her back and wrists while training at the Kalamazoo Gymnastics Club. She was referred to Nassar, and she claimed he inserted his fingers into her vagina around 30 minutes into their first meeting, according to the Title IX report from her criminal case.
The abuse continued in subsequent appointments, Denhollander alleged. During one, she said, Nassar had a “very clear erection” and that his “eyes were closed, his face was flushed, and he was breathing very heavily.”
The alleged abuse occurred over the course of five visits in 2000.
Maroney, a member of the USA’s famed “Fierce Five” team that won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, said she incurred abuse from Nassar over the course of multiple years, according to an emotional account posted to Twitter.
Maroney wrote that the abuse began when she was 13 years old. While she didn’t go into detail about the abuses themselves, she claimed that Nassar misled her into believing she was receiving medically necessary treatment.
Nassar’s actions continued over the next few years, Maroney said. Maroney described a harrowing experience from the 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo, when she was just 15.
“I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo,” she wrote. “He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment.’ I thought I was going to die that night.”
Maroney eventually realised her Olympic dreams, but “not without a price,” she said.
The California native said she was inspired by the recent wave of “#MeToo” posts on social media, in which thousands of women have opened up about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment. She ended her account with a statement of hope for the future.
“Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it’s time to take our power back,” she wrote. “And remember, it’s never too late to speak up.”
Tiffany Thomas Lopez
Lopez, a former college softball player, alleged that Nassar abused her on multiple occasions during her time at Michigan State.
Lopez, a high-school All-American who played two seasons for the Spartans, began experiencing chronic lower back pain in the fall of 1998 and was referred to Nassar for treatment. During their sessions, Nassar inserted “his bare, ungloved and unlubricated hand into her vagina,” according to a criminal complaint filed in the state of California.
Lopez refused to continue seeing Nassar in 2001 after what she said was continued abuse. She alleged she was subsequently “pressured and coerced” by the university into declaring herself medically inactive.
Lopez said she expressed her discomfort with Nassar’s actions to multiple other athletic trainers at Michigan State, at least one of whom encouraged her to report him to a supervisor. But when Lopez went to talk about her alleged abuser with supervisor trainer Destiny Teachnor-Hauk, she got a different reception, according to the Orange County Register.
“And I remember sitting on the bleachers in Jenison Fieldhouse with [Teachnor-Hauk] and she gave me the ‘What do you want now?’ and rolled her eyes like she had no time for me,” Lopez said. “And I told her my story, she says, ‘You understand he’s a world-renowned doctor. He treats elite athletes like yourself. You’re getting the best treatment possible. He does this to all the other athletes. You either suck it up or you don’t play.’ And I unfortunately let it die.”
Olympic medalist Jamie Dantzscher alleged that Nassar penetrated her “dozens, if not hundreds of times, for severe hip and back pain” starting in the mid-1990s, according to the Daily Mail.
Dantzscher said the abuse began experiencing severe hip and back pain at age 13. According to court documents, Nassar would place “his ungloved hand into my vagina to get my hips to ‘pop’ and ‘adjust’ my back. He would keep his hand inside me for what seemed like an eternity.”
Dantzscher won an Olympic bronze with Team USA at the Sydney Games in 2000. She initially told her story as a Jane Doe, but came forward publicly some time later.
Michigan State gymnast Lindsey Lemke alleged that Nassar “sexually assaulted, battered, abused and molested me on approximately 600 different occasions,” according to the Daily Mail.
Lemke hails from Nassar’s adopted hometown of Holt, Michigan and is first listed on the Spartans’ roster for the 2014-15 season. She said she was abused over a number of years, as both a child and an adult.
Like in the other cases, Nassar would begin by massaging Lemke’s back under the guise of medical treatment before working his way down to below her waist, she said. She alleged he would rub the skin around her vagina before penetrating her, according to court documents.
“Nassar did these acts without wearing gloves, without using lubricant, without my parents’ consent, and without my consent,” she said.
Lemke, now a senior, continues to compete for the Spartans. She was named a team captain in August.
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