INDIANAPOLIS (WWJ/AP) — A member of the faculty at Michigan State University and a former doctor for USA Gymnastics has been accused of sexual abuse by two former gymnasts.
One of the two women — a former Olympic medalist — filed a lawsuit in California alleging Dr. Larry Nassar of molesting her during treatments in the 1990s and early 2000s while she was competing with USA Gymnastics.
The Olympian is identified as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit against Nassar and the USA Gymnastics organization. Her attorneys on Monday identified her only as a medal-winning member of the team that competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
The second gymnast, Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Kentucky, told the Indianapolis Star newspaper that Nassar sexually abused her in 2000 while she underwent treatment for lower back pain at Michigan State University, where Nassar is a faculty member.
Denhollander, who was 15 at the time, told the Star that Nassar became gradually more abusive over the course of five treatments, including massaging her breasts and penetrating her. She said she filed a complaint last month with university police.
Denhollander said her mother was at the therapy sessions, but that Nassar positioned himself in such a way that she couldn’t see what was happening.
“I was terrified,” Denhollander said. “I was ashamed. I was very embarrassed. And I was very confused, trying to reconcile what was happening with the person he was supposed to be. He’s this famous doctor. He’s trusted by my friends. He’s trusted by these other gymnasts. How could he reach this position in the medical profession, how could he reach this kind of prominence and stature if this is who he is?”
The California lawsuit says that USA Gymnastics negligently suppressed, concealed or failed to disclose knowledge that Nassar had engaged in sexual conduct with team members.
“Our client represents the very best America has to offer,” John Manly and Vince Finaldi, the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement. “She sacrificed her youth and adolescence, spending thousands of hours in rigorous and often painful training to bring glory to our nation as an Olympic athlete. She had an absolute right to trust USA Gymnastics, its coaches and staff. Unfortunately, they have proven time and again that they are more interested in protecting the reputation of their multi-million-dollar enterprise than the child athletes who are entrusted to their care.”
The lawsuit does not provide specific instances where USA Gymnastics knowingly withheld information.
Nassar resigned from USA Gymnastics last fall, and up until August 30 was team physician for the MSU gymnastics and Holt High School. The university says it suspended Nassar from his duties when it received the complaint.
USA Gymnastics issued a statement on Monday about the situation:
“Immediately after learning of athlete concerns about Dr. Nassar in the summer of 2015, Steve Penny, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, notified law enforcement. We also relieved Dr. Nassar of his duties, and he ceased to be affiliated with USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics has cooperated fully with the law enforcement agency since we first notified them of the matter, including – at their request – refraining from making further statements or taking any other action that might interfere with the agency’s investigation. We are grateful to the athletes for coming forward to share their concerns when they did.”
Nassar has also been temporarily relieved of clinical and patient duties with Michigan State, where he is an associate professor in the sports medicine program, pending the police investigation into the criminal complaint, according to school spokesman Kent Cassella.
No charges have been filed yet.
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