The Olympic flame for the 2016 games has long been extinguished, but allegations of sexual abuse once again has the attention focused on the USA Gymnastics team. A team doctor, already facing two allegations of sexual abuse, now faces 16 additional complaints.
According to the New York Daily News, Dr. Larry Nassar was accused of sexual abuse by 2000 Sydney games medalist and gymnast Rachael Denhollander. The paper reports Nassar was recently fired from Michigan State University where he was serving as an associate professor in the school’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and worked as an MSU team physician. According to the paper, many of Nassar’s accusers, including Denhollander, worked with Nassar during his time at the school.
The Indianapolis Star had previously reported on the abuse after the paper obtained Michigan State University police reports from 1996, which was the year Nassar was made the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. Five of Nassar’s alleged victims talked to the Star following their initial report of misconduct.
According to the IndyStar, four women contacted the paper directly, along with a fifth woman who filed a report with police in 2004. Each said they told police Nassar penetrated them with his finger during what were supposed to be medical treatments. Three of the five claim they were underage at the time. Two also Nassar touched their breasts and one report Nassar was sexually aroused.
According to the IndyStar, Nassar’s former attorney denied the abuse and stated there had never been any vaginal penetration. The paper’s follow-up with Nassar’s current attorneys resulted in the claim that the doctor had been performing legitimate medical procedures when penetration occurred. Nassar continues to deny any wrongdoing.
An additional statement from Nassar’s current attorney was issued to the Guardian and stated,
“Dr. Nassar denies any misconduct relating to any gymnast, patient or anyone else. To the extent he provided medical treatment to anyone, that treatment was always done with the consent of the patient. He is proud of his 29 years of volunteer service with USA Gymnastics.”
According to the New York Daily News, the latest batch of allegations came as a result of Denhollander and the Olympic medalist filing their lawsuit in California. The paper reported Denhollander claims USA Gymnastics was aware of the abuse, but refused to take action because of fear of scandal affecting its fundraising efforts. According to the Daily News, Nassar filed her report in August at Michigan State University where she trained when she was a teenager and claims the doctor abused her five times through 2000 when she was seeking treatment for back pain.
New York Daily News reports there are at least 20 complaints overall against Nassar, all coming from women who ranged in age from 13 to 20 at the time of their abuse.
Sporting programs like gymnastics as well swimming and soccer and others have a responsibility to protect the young athletes given into their care. When they fail to fulfill such a critical responsibility the sports program needs to be held accountable in a court of law.