Thursday, May 28, 2020

WORLD | 23-01-2018 13:11

Flood of women come forward in USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal

For decades, Larry Nassar, a US Olympic and Michigan State University physician, molested young girls under the guise of treatment. More than 140 women have now come forward to denounce his crimes and help send him behind bars.

In an extraordinary scene unfolding in a Michigan courtroom, more than 140 women and girls are coming forward — far more than originally expected — to confront the man who molested them when they were vulnerable girls told to trust the doctor who could help them achieve their dreams.

Larry Nassar, 54, has admitted molesting athletes during medical treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He is due back in court on Tuesday. At least 35 more victims want to speak out.

Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes. Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum prison sentence of 25 to 40 years in the molestation case. The maximum term could be much higher.

A number of Olympians have been among those testifying in the Nassar hearing. Many have also sued the US Olympic Committee and Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics and called for the sports leaders to leave their jobs.

Last week, USA Gymnastics said it would no longer hold training camps at the Karolyi ranch in Texas, where a number of gymnasts said Nassar abused them. That announcement only came after Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles complained that USA Gymnastics hadn't moved to find a different training locale.


On Monday, the organisation announced the resignations of three key leaders — chairman Paul Parilla, vice-chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley — days after former gold medalists Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber said in court that Nassar had sexually assaulted them. CEO Steve Penny was also forced out last year.

Michigan State's gymnastics coach — who is accused of downplaying complaints made by two teens in 1997 — and another university sports doctor quit under pressure last year. But the governing board has stood behind university President Lou Anna Simon, despite calls from legislative leaders and others that she resign or be fired.

On Monday, USA Gymnastics also said it has suspended former US women's national team coach John Geddert, the owner of the Twistars gymnastics club near Lansing, Michigan. It did not disclose its reasons for suspending Geddert.

The sentencing has taken on a #MeToo momentum, though the case predates the uproar over Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. It began with a 2016 Indianapolis Star investigation of how USA Gymnastics handled sexual abuse allegations against coaches. 

That prompted former gymnast Rachael Denhollander to alert the newspaper to Nassar's abuse.


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