Fri, Dec 22, 2017 - Page 16 News List

US gymnast says settlement covered up abuse


Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney was forced to sign a confidential settlement with the group that trains US Olympic gymnasts to keep allegations that she was sexually abused by team doctor Larry Nassar a secret, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday said.

Maroney, who won a team gold and an individual silver on the vault as part of the “Fierce Five” US women’s team at the 2012 Olympics in London, said Nassar’s abuse started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

After suffering sexual abuse and “years of psychological trauma,” Maroney reached a settlement with USA Gymnastics in December last year, but the terms of the agreement were not disclosed in court papers.

Her lawsuit seeks to invalidate parts of the settlement, arguing it contravened California law and that USA Gymnastics “had a plan to keep the sexual abuse of Nassar quiet.”

Maroney, who is now 22 years old, said on Twitter in October that the abuse started when she was 13 and attending a US national team training camp in Houston, Texas.

Nassar told her at the time that she was receiving “medically necessary treatment he had been performing on patients for over 30 years,” she said at the time.

Maroney had been abused between 50 and 100 times by Nassar, including at the Olympics and during the world championships, her attorney John Manly said.

She has described Nassar giving her a sleeping pill while the team traveled to Japan for the 2011 world championships.

Maroney said Nassar later visited her in her hotel room after the team arrived in Tokyo, where he molested her yet again.

“First and foremost, she wants this never to happen to another little girl,” Manly said in an interview on Wednesday.

The settlement included nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses, and Maroney or her parents could be sued for more than US$100,000 for breaching the agreement.

The suit seeks to invalidate those provisions under a California law which prohibits settlements in civil cases that could result in criminal sex offense charges.

“It’s despicable and it is wrong,” Manly said of the settlement.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement that the “concept of confidentiality” was initiated by Maroney’s attorney, and that both the non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses were mutually agreed upon.

“The settlement in 2016 was in accordance with state law, despite what has been alleged,” the statement said. “Although USA Gymnastics is disappointed by today’s filing, we applaud McKayla and others who speak up against abusive behavior — including the despicable acts of Larry Nassar.”

Nassar has admitted to sexually assaulting female gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought treatment.

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