U.S. Olympic gold medal winning gymnast McKayla Maroney said Wednesday that she was sexually abused for years by Larry Nassar, the former national team doctor for USA Gymnastics. Maroney, now 21, said the abuse began when she was 13 and continued until she left the sport in 2016.
With her public tweet, Maroney has become the latest and most prominent of the hundreds of people who have accused Nassar of sexual abuse and other crimes.
Nassar, 53, has been charged with sexual conduct with minors in the state of Michigan, where he practiced, and is named in hundreds of lawsuits filed by athletes who say he abused them under the pretense of giving them medical treatment. In most cases, they claim Nassar penetrated them with bare fingers under the guise of relieving pain. He pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges last July and is currently in jail awaiting sentencing.
Read more: ‘It Started When I Was 13 Years Old.’ Olympic Gymnast McKayla Maroney Says U.S. Team Doctor Molested Her
Nassar was a licensed osteopath and served as a volunteer physician for USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body, for 30 years. The organization oversees the selection of national teams for world and Olympic competitions. He also worked at the school of osteopathic medicine at Michigan State University (MSU), where he treated the school’s gymnasts and other athletes. Nassar has three children with his wife, who filed for divorce in January.
Nassar first became a part of the national gymnastics community after volunteering at Twistars Gymnastics Club in Dimondale, Mich., a training ground for emerging talent in the region. He soon became a fixture at national and international competitions and was eventually invited to the famous Karolyi ranch in Texas. There, under the direction of the influential coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi, the nation’s elite women gymnasts trained once a month for a week. Most of the attendees were minors who were there without their parents. Other gymnasts, including Jamie Dantzscher, Jessica Howard, Jeanette Antolin and Rachel Denhollander, have said they were abused by Nassar while at the ranch, alleging that he was allowed to enter the girls’ rooms after training to perform supposed “treatments.”
In December 2016, the FBI arrested Nassar on child pornography charges. Agents found more than 37,000 images of child pornography, including girls as young as six, on computer disks and drives he had attempted to discard in a trash bin outside his home. They also obtained a video of Nassar allegedly molesting girls in a pool. He was charged with sexually assaulting a minor by the state of Michigan.
Read more: Former U.S. Gymnasts Say They Were Sexually Abused by Team Doctor
According to the reports of gymnasts who have shared their stories, the abuse was relentless, and their attempts to report Nassar were ignored. In 2016, the Indianapolis Star revealed that USA Gymnastics had a policy of not alerting law enforcement of sexual abuse claims unless the reports came directly from the victim or her parents. In response to Maroney’s tweet, USA Gymnastics said in a statement, “We, like so many others, are outraged and disgusted by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career.”
Nassar stopped working for USA Gymnastics after 2015, when the organization reported concerns from athletes about the doctor to law enforcement. Michigan State University fired Nassar a year later while investigating athlete reports of abuse.
If Nassar is convicted of the charges of sexual conduct with minors in Michigan, he could face life in prison.