Sun, Nov 12, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Olympic gymnast joins abuse claim

‘YOU WANT TO TRUST PEOPLE’:USA Gymnastics has been implementing measures to address inappropriate interaction, including mandatory reporting and travel escorts

AP

Gymnast Aly Raisman poses at the Team USA Media Summit in Beverly Hills, California, on March 7 last year.

Photo: AFP

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman says she is among the young women sexually abused by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor.

Raisman told 60 Minutes she was 15 when she was first treated by Larry Nassar, who spent more than two decades working with athletes at USA Gymnastics. He is now is in jail in Michigan awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.

Raisman, captain of the 2012 and last year’s Olympic gold-medal winning teams, details the abuse in her book Fierce, which will be released on Tuesday. Raisman’s interview with 60 Minutes is to air tonight.

Raisman is the latest gymnast to claim she was sexually abused by Nassar. McKayla Maroney, who won two medals at the 2012 Games as Raisman’s teammate, said last month she was molested for years by Nassar.

Nassar is also awaiting trial on separate criminal sexual conduct charges and has been sued by more than 125 women alleging sexual abuse.

Nassar has pleaded not guilty to the assault charges, and the dozens of civil suits filed in Michigan are in mediation.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Friday that Raisman sharing her personal experience took “great courage” and it is “appalled by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused.”

The 23-year-old Raisman has been highly critical of USA Gymnastics in recent months, calling for leadership change at the top of the organization while advocating for athlete’s rights.

USA Gymnastics launched an independent review of its policies in the wake of the allegations against Nassar and reporting by the Indianapolis Star in August last year that highlighted chronic mishandling of sexual abuse allegations against coaches and staff at some of its more than 3,500 clubs.

Nassar began working with USA Gymnastics as an athletic trainer in 1986 and became the national team doctor in 1996. He stepped down in 2014, but remained on staff before being fired in 2015.

“These girls, they should be comfortable going to USA Gymnastics and saying: ‘I need help, I want therapy. I need this,’” Raisman said in an interview with The Associated Press and USA Today in August.

Raisman declined to get into specifics at that time about whether she was abused by Nassar, but painted a vivid picture of how Nassar’s behavior went unchecked.

“I think that, you just want, you want to trust people and that he was just a disgusting person, he took advantage of so many people’s trust,” Raisman said. “And I think, it just disgusts me he was a doctor. It’s crazy. Because when a doctor says something you want to believe him and it’s just awful.”

Jamie Dantzscher, a bronze medalist on the 2000 US Olympic team, filed a lawsuit against Nassar in California in September last year.

She says Nassar touched her inappropriately while disguising the abuse as treatment. Dantzscher initially filed as “Jane Doe,” but came forward publicly to 60 Minutes in February.

In June, the gymnastics board adopted the new USA Gymnastics SafeSport Policy that replaced the previous policy. Key updates include mandatory reporting, defining six types of misconduct, setting standards to prohibit grooming behavior, preventing inappropriate interaction and establishing accountability.

In July, the organization hired Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport. Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs and reporting.

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