LOS ANGELES (CN) – Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney sued the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and the University of Michigan in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, claiming she was forced to keep silent about being sexually abused by Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar was the Michigan State University and U.S. Olympic Team doctor for two decades. On Dec. 7, he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges, and pleaded guilty in November to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan. He’s been accused of molesting 140 girls and women throughout his career, and has admitted that his bare-handed touching of their vaginas was sexual abuse.
Maroney, who won an individual silver medal and team gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, was one of his victims. According to her lawsuit, she suffered abuse from 2009 through 2013.
In October, she issued a public statement saying Nassar began touching her under the guise of providing medical “treatment” when she was 13 years old.
“It started when I was 13 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,” Maroney said.
She added, “A simple fact is this. If Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. 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.”
Maroney’s lawsuit claims Michigan State and the U.S. Olympic team bought her silence with a $1.25 million settlement in 2016, which included a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement she would have to pay $100,000 to break.
In a statement, her attorney John Manly said the lawsuit challenges the confidentially provisions, saying such agreements are illegal in California. “The U.S. Olympic Committee had to know that the victim of child sexual abuse in California cannot be forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of a settlement,” he said. “Such agreements are illegal for very good reasons, they silence victims and allow perpetrators to continue committing their crimes. That is exactly what happened in this case.”
The lawsuit also says Michigan State and the Olympic Committee never intervened to discipline Nassar or protect the athletes under his care.
Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody said the school “does not comment on ongoing litigation out of respect for the process and everyone involved.”
After Nassar’s sentencing last week, university president Lou Anna K. Simon sent out a letter saying she hoped the 60-year sentence “is the first of what I hope will be many lengthy prison sentences.”
Simon also said the school will bring in outside experts to review how the school treats its student athletes.
“For me, this situation also reinforces the importance of taking a hard look at ourselves and learning from what happened – because it should never happen again,” she said.
In an email, USA Gymnastics said the confidentiality agreement was proposed by Gloria Allred, Maroney’s attorney in 2016.
“Contrary to reports, the concept of confidentiality was initiated by McKayla’s attorney, not USA Gymnastics,” the group said. “In 2016, McKayla’s attorney at the time, Gloria Allred, approached USA Gymnastics, requesting that the organization participate in a confidential mediation process. USA Gymnastics cannot speak to the mediation process, which is confidential and privileged under California law.
“The process culminated in a settlement agreement that included a mutual nondisclosure clause and a mutual nondisparagement clause. The settlement in 2016 was in accordance with state law, despite what has been alleged. At all times, McKayla was represented by Allred, a California-based attorney, who actively negotiated and approved the settlement agreement signed by McKayla.
“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. We want to work together with McKayla and others to help encourage and empower athletes to speak up against abuse. USA Gymnastics new CEO Kerry Perry is eager to speak personally with McKayla to hear her ideas on how to move the sport forward and to discuss the many safe sport enhancements that have already been implemented at USA Gymnastics.”
Maroney is now represented by John Manly of Manly, Stewart and Finaldi in Los Angeles, a firm specializing in representing sexually abused children.
Manly was unavailable to speak with Courthouse News.
U.S. Olympic team spokesman Mark Jones said in an email that the U.S. Olympic Committee was never a part of the settlement, and that it first heard of the abuse in 2015, when it was informed by USA Gymnastics.
“At that time USA Gymnastics indicated that they were in the process of contacting the appropriate law enforcement agencies,” Jones said. “We are heartbroken that this abuse occurred, proud of the brave victims that have come forward and grateful that our criminal justice system has ensured that Nassar will never be able to harm another young woman. We are hopeful that with the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s continued education and prevention efforts, as well as their investigative and adjudicative authority, we will help ensure that tragedies like this will never happen again.”