INDIANAPOLIS (WWJ/AP) – USA Gymnastics has established a fund that it says is designed to assist gymnasts who were victims of former sports doctor Larry Nassar.
The organization’s president, Kerry Perry, says the agency wants to provide the financial support for girls and young women to access counseling and mental health services.
The Athlete Assistance Fund was announced Wednesday. It’s in cooperation with the National Gymnastics Foundation.
Investigators said Nassar molested numerous girls and women while claiming to be treating them for injuries. Many of the victims were gymnasts.
He’s serving a 60-year federal prison sentence for child pornography. He’s also been sentenced twice to 40 to 175 years in state prison in Michigan for sexual abuse and assaults.
A five-person committee of the National Gymnastics Foundation will oversee the fund. An independent third party will administer it.
In all, some 265 women and girls have reported being molested by Nassar. Some of the cases date back to the 1990s. The judge said the abuse “spans the country and the world,” noting that she heard from participants not only in gymnastics but also soccer, figure skating, rowing, softball, cheerleading, wrestling, diving, dance, and track and field. Other victims were non-athletes treated for back, leg and other injuries, she said.
Many of the accusers described an ultra-competitive gymnastics culture in which authority figures could not be questioned and Nassar was free to abuse young patients year after year. They said they had little choice to see doctors other than Nassar, who was renowned throughout the sport.
The Olympic coach who operated Twistars, John Geddert, was suspended last month by USA Gymnastics until it completes its own investigation. He’s also facing a criminal investigation. Geddert, who coached the “Fierce Five” that won a team gold in 2012 in London, announced his retirement. And all of the agency’s board members recently stepped down at the demand of the Olympic committee.
Geddert until recently owned and operated Twistars, a gym in Dimondale near Lansing where Nassar offered treatments on Monday nights. During Nassar’s two recent sentencing hearings, some victims complained that Geddert was physically abusive, was indifferent to injuries and forced them to see Nassar.
One also alleged that Geddert was aware in the late 1990s that Nassar had performed an “inappropriate procedure” on her when she was 16, and her mother and Geddert agreed that Nassar would not treat her in private appointments again. That accuser’s anonymous statement was read in court by a prosecutor.
Geddert has insisted he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes. In response to lawsuits, his attorney filed court papers saying Geddert was “just one person in an extremely long line of people who were fooled by Nassar.”
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