Tomorrow, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State physician Larry Nassar will be sentenced in federal court in Grand Rapids, Mich. pursuant to his guilty plea on child pornography charges. And 2012 Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney will be in the courtroom, watching as her former team doctor, a man she says sexually abused her throughout her career, is sentenced to up to 60 years in prison.
Neither Maroney nor the other gymnasts who are expected to be present will be permitted to address the court but will speak to the media after the sentencing is over.
Maroney and her mother wrote victim impact statements that the judge said she’d read privately. These letters discuss the impact that Nassar’s abuse has had on their lives, and can be read in full at the bottom of this post.
“It all started when I was 13 or 14 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport. It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was “treated.” It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and It happened before I won my Silver Medal. For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and 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.
Because the National Team training camps did not allow parents to be present, my mom and dad were unable to observe what Nassar was doing, and this has imposed a terrible and undeserved burden of guilt on my loving family.”
Maroney’s mother went into wrenching detail about the impact that the revelation of Nassar’s abuse has had on her once-vivacious daughter:
This experience has been shattering to McKayla. She has transformed from a bubbly, positive, loving, world class athlete into a young adult who was deeply depressed, at times suicidal and essentially descended into an emotional abyss. At times I was unsure whether I would open her bedroom door and find her dead. Her father and I have been living this nightmare for years and until recently we felt hopeless. Nassar and those individuals and institutions that protected him almost snuffed out my daughter. For several years she has been unable to work and for months on end didn’t leave our home, or even her room.
In their letters, Maroney and her mother went beyond Nassar when it came to assigning blame for the abuse her daughter suffered, pointing to three institutions she considers culpable: the USOC, USA Gymnastics, and MSU.
Erin Maroney’s letter cited the fact that neither she nor her husband were allowed to accompany their daughter during international travel for competitions or even stay at the same hotel as the gymnasts. It was during many of these trips that Maroney said that she had been abused by Nassar.
I also learned a few weeks ago from my daughter that at the world championships in Tokyo the Defendant drugged her, made her lay nude on a treatment table, straddled her and digitally penetrated her while rubbing his erect penis against her. She was only 15 years old. She said to me “Mom I thought I was going to die”. I cannot tell you the anguish her Dad and I feel over this, and the responsibility we feel for not being aware of this, or being able to stop it.
Maroney first went public about the sexual abuse she endured back in October with a statement posted to her Twitter account. Like other victims on the national team, it seems that Maroney first became aware that Nassar’s abuse was widespread when USA Gymnastics sent Fran Sepler, an investigator, to speak to her during the spring of 2015. (Sepler was named to the board of directors of the newly created U.S. Center for Safe Sport.)
After USA Gymnastics’ investigation, Nassar was effectively fired by the national governing body—throughout his time with USA Gymnastics he was technically a volunteer and his work was supported by MSU, which described his treatment of national team members and other athletes not affiliated with the university as “outreach.” (Depending on the year, his employment contract with MSU allotted up to 70 percent of Nassar’s time to this kind of “outreach.”)
Near the end of her letter, McKayla Maroney writes:
A simple fact is this. If Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee had paid attention to any of the red flags in Larry Nassar’s behavior I never would have met him, I never would have been “treated” by him, and I never would have been abused by him.
Read the letters, which were provided to us by the victims’ lawyers, in full: