NORMAN, Okla. (WWJ/AP) – A University of Oklahoma gymnast and former Olympic hopeful says she is among more than 100 women and girls who say they are victims of sexual abuse by a now-imprisoned Michigan sports doctor.
OU sophomore Maggie Nichols said in a statement Tuesday that Dr. Larry Nassar violated her innocence at the Karolyi Ranch Olympic training camp in Texas. She said the assaults began when she was 15.
“My back was really hurting me, I couldn’t even really bend down, and I remember he took me into the training room, closed the door and closed the blinds,” Nichols said in a statement. “I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain. He did this ‘treatment’ on me, on numerous occasions.”
It went even further than physical assaults, Nichols said, with Nassar trying to “groom” her.
“Not only was Larry Nassar my doctor, I thought he was my friend. He contacted me on Facebook complimenting me and telling me how beautiful I looked on numerous occasions. But I was only 15 and I just thought he was trying to be nice to me. Now I believe this was part of the grooming process I recently learned about,” she said.
Nichols, who retired from elite gymnastics in June 2016, also revealed that she is “Athlete A” — the first to report sexual abuse by Nassar to USA Gymnastics during the summer of 2015.
“Up until now, I was identified as Athlete A by USA gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University. I want everyone to know that he did not do this to Athlete A, he did it to Maggie Nichols.”
“One day at practice, I was talking to my teammate, and brought up Dr. Nassar and his treatments. When I was talking to her, my coach overheard. I had never told my coach about these treatments. After hearing our conversation she asked me more questions about it and said it doesn’t seem right,” she said. “My coach thought it was wrong, so she did the right thing and reported this abuse to the USA Gymnastics staff.”
Lawyer John Manly represents Nichols, along with 106 other females suing two institutions that employed Nassar: USA Gymnastics, the Indianapolis-based group that trains Olympians; and Michigan State University.
“USA Gymnastics and the USOC did not provide a safe environment for me and my teammates to train,” Nichols said in her statement. “We were subjected to Dr. Nassar at every National Team Camp, which occurred monthly at the Karolyi Ranch. His job was to care for our health and treat our injuries. Instead, he violated our innocence.”
Nassar was fired from Michigan State University in September 2016, and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, cut ties in 2015. Had the university investigated previous complaints about Nassar, Nichols speculates, she and other girls may not have experienced the abuse.
“I later found out that Michigan State University had ignored complaints against Larry Nassar from other girls going back 20 years and had investigated him for sexual assault in 2014,” she said. “They never told USA Gymnastics. If they had, I might never have met Larry Nassar and I would never have been abused by him.”
A former federal prosecutor hired by Michigan State University said there’s no evidence that school officials knew Nassar, a campus doctor, was sexually abusing young female athletes.
The leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee has said he was not aware of the sex-abuse allegations against Nassar before law enforcement got involved.
Nassar has admitted to sexually assaulting the gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought treatment. He is scheduled for sentencing next week on the molestation cases. He was sentenced in December to 60 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.
Olympians McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas say they were among his victims as teens.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.