Three former US gymnasts have come forward to describe the sexual abuse they faced at Dr. Larry Nassar’s clinic in Michigan.
Sydney Olympics bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher, US national rhythmic gymnastics champion Jessica Howard and US team gymnast Jeanette Antolin accused the doctor of touching them inappropriately.
“He would put his fingers inside of me and move my leg around. He would tell me I was going to feel a pop and that that would put my hips back and help my back pain,” said Dantzscher.
She was 13 when the incident took place.
“It happened all the way to the Olympics in Sydney, until I was 18,” she added.
Another victim, Howard said, “He started massaging me. And he had asked me not to wear any underwear. And then he just continued to go into more and more intimate places.”
“I remember thinking something was off but I didn't feel like I was able to say anything because he was, you know, this very high-profile doctor. And I was very lucky to be at the ranch working with him,” she added.
“It was like a light bulb went off. I trusted this man. Just knowing how vulnerable I was as a kid, to not know something like that would be inappropriate, just ruined me,” said Antolin.
“I remember being uncomfortable because of the area. But in my mind, I was like: "If this helps, I'll do anything,” she added.
Despite allegations, Nassar has denied the charges, saying he conducted only legitimate medical procedures.
USA Gymnastics delayed reporting Larry Nassar for 5 weeks https://t.co/THe6QTzeWN— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 17, 2017
Dr. Larry Nassar, 53, the former USA Gymnast and Michigan State University doctor, has been sued by 18 alleged victims and is facing sexual assault and child pornography charges.
He has been accused of sexually abusing gymnasts mostly at his clinic in Michigan State University.
The alleged sexual abuse, which was disguised as treatment, began in the late 1990s and continued into 2016. Most of the girls were teenagers at the time of the assaults, although several were as young as 9.
While 17 of the alleged victims remained anonymous, Rachael Denhollander, 32, talked publicly about the lawsuit. She said she was assaulted by Nassar while seeing him for wrist and back injuries at age 15 in 2000. Denhollander said she didn’t file a lawsuit back then because she believed her "voice would not be heard."
“The decision to pursue civil charges was painful and it was difficult. It is a decision to continue to be immersed in these events on a national scale, for an extended period of time,” she added during a press conference in Michigan.
In 1999 and 2000, a Michigan State runner and a softball player complained to the university’s sports medicine staff that Nassar has molested her with his hands, but no investigations were conducted, according to the lawsuit.
The victims in the lawsuit are or were athletes in a variety of sports, including gymnastics, swimming, figure skating, track and field, field hockey, basketball and soccer.
Nassar was the team doctor for the Michigan State University gymnastics and women's crew teams, an associate professor in MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine and a physician for the U.S. national gymnastics team through four Olympic Games.
The lawsuit alleges that USA Gymnastics, MSU and Twistars USA (a Michigan gymnastics facility where he also worked) were negligent allowing the abuse to occur, and that Michigan State kept Nassar on its staff even though at least three of his patients had filed complaints about his behavior.
In a statement, Michigan State University said an internal review "discovered no evidence that any individuals came forward to MSU with complaints about Nassar before Aug. 29, 2016, other than the 2014 complaint that was investigated by MSU Police and our Title IX office."
Michigan State fired Nassar last fall and has launched an internal investigation.
He was arrested on the sexual assault charges last November. In December, a federal grand jury indicted him on child pornography charges. He pleaded not guilty and is being held at the Newaygo County Jail in White Cloud, Michigan.
Nassar has denied the allegations through lawyers. He is also charged sexually assaulting a girl at his Lansing-area home. He is in jail without bond.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Brendan McDermid