Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney have both come forward about their experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar, the national team’s former doctor.
McKayla Maroney revealed her allegations in a Twitter post a month ago on October 18th. The abuse started when Maroney attended a national team training camp at the age of 13 and continued until she retired from competitive gymnastics in 2016. She wrote of specific incidents before the USA win at the 2012 Olympics and her own silver medal on the vault, as well as an attack during the 2011 Tokyo world championships. Nassar had reportedly given the then fifteen-year-old a sleeping pill; “the next thing I know I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment.’ I thought I was going to die that night.”
“This is happening everywhere,” she wrote. “Wherever there is a position of power, there seems to be potential for abuse. I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting.”‘
In an interview with 60 Minutes that will air Sunday night, Aly Raisman has confirmed that she was also abused.
“I am angry. I’m really upset,” Raisman said. “I see these young girls that come up to me, and they ask for pictures or autographs, whatever it is … I just want to create change so that they never, ever have to go through this.”
Raisman has been openly critical of the way USA Gymnastics has handled the crisis months before she or Maroney came forward. In a joint interview with USA TODAY and the Associated Press in August, she shared her misgivings: “I love the Olympics, I love gymnastics, I love the sport. But I don’t support how USA Gymnastics is handling everything right now.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the Olympic champion or you’re an 8-year-old that goes to gymnastics in Ohio, or wherever you are in the United States,” Raisman said. “Every single kid is important, and I want USA Gymnastics to do a better job with that.”
USA Gymnastics responded with a statement that claimed they were “appalled by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. And, we are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career (…) We want to work with Aly and all interested athletes to keep athletes safe.”
However, formal federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels stated that past cases were not reviewed in order to see the shortcomings of the USA Gymnastics system, a fact which enraged Raisman.
“It can’t just be about we’re making sure the athletes feel safe now,” she responded. “It has to be going back and apologizing and going to these families and going to all these gymnasts and saying, `What made you feel unsafe? What can we do for the next generation?’” Raisman said. “They need to be calling up all of these people that have come forward and say, ‘Can you please help us and tell us what part of it was wrong? What part made you feel unsafe? What could we do differently?’”
Larry Nassar is currently facing lawsuits by over 130 female athletes he abused in the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University Programs.
So the girls who stood in front of the world and brought honor to their nation as some of the strongest in the world now face a different opponent: the system. The one thing we’ve learned? No one is untouchable.
Photo: By Agência Brasil Fotografias [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons