Follow Us On
News
News

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 11 January 2018 21:52    PDF Print
Germany's Tratz Enjoys Transition to College Life at UCLA
(8 votes, average 3.75 out of 5)



After winning vault in her debut for UCLA last week, 2016 German Olympic team alternate Pauline Tratz told IG she is enjoying the process of adapting to collegiate gymnastics and university life in the United States. Pictured: The German team celebrates after Tratz, the final performer, hit her routine on uneven bars at the 2016 Rio Test Event in Rio de Janeiro, where Germany placed second as a team to clinch qualification to the 2016 Olympic Games later that summer.

After winning vault in her debut for UCLA last week, 2016 German Olympic team alternate Pauline Tratz told IG she is enjoying the process of adapting to collegiate gymnastics and university life in the United States.


Tratz poses at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion after winning vault in her NCAA debut.

"I was excited to make the transition," said Tratz, who arrived on the Los Angeles campus directly from this summer's University Games in Taipei, where she placed 13th all-around and fifth on floor exercise. "It's really interesting to see how differently the gymnasts work, because it's really all about execution and not about the difficulty."

Tratz, who will turn 19 on June 14, said she is also savoring the challenge of adjusting her routines to meet NCAA requirements.

"For sure it was hard at the beginning because it was different," she said. "But I really enjoy choosing the best skills from my elite routines and working on them really hard, and trying to do them perfectly."

Tratz was a member of Germany's fourth-place team at the 2014 European Junior Championships in Sofia and its 12th-place team at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. She finished 18th all-around at the 2015 Europeans in Montpellier. At the 2016 Olympic test event in Rio, Tratz helped Germany finish second in the team competition behind Brazil, clinching a team berth to the 2016 Rio Games.

In recent domestic competitions, Tratz placed seventh all-around, second on vault and third on floor exercise at the 2015 German Championships; 10th all-around, first on vault and second on floor exercise at the 2016 German Championships; and first on vault at the 2017 German Championships.

Tratz trained at TSV Rintheim in Karlsruhe under coach Tatjana Bachmayer and competed in the German Bundesliga for TG Karlsruhe-Söllingen. Starting in January 2017, she was also coached by American Chris Lakeman. Lakeman, a former Penn State gymnast who won the 2001 NCAA still rings title, is the new head coach of TG Karlsruhe.


Tratz on floor at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow

Tratz, who competed on vault and floor exercise in her collegiate debut against Ohio State University last Saturday, said she hopes to return to all-around competition next year.

"At the moment I have problems with my right shoulder so I can't train bars, but I'm working on beam," she said. "It's taken me a little time because I had to change from my elite routine to a college routine, so I just need to get a little more confident. I'm planning to do beam, and hopefully next season, bars, when my shoulder gets better."

Tratz said she is keeping her academic options open. This quarter her classes include English Composition, Design and Media Arts, and Introduction to Screenwriting.

"First I just want to get experience in different areas," she said. "I'm interested in film and television, but I don't know what I want to do exactly. I want to play around and see what classes I like, and what I want to do in my future."

While Tratz said she is inspired by the long careers of German teammates including Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui, both of whom are thriving in their 20s, she has her own agenda that may or may not include a return to international competition.

"I see that they still have fun and love competing, and I also still love competing," she told IG. "But I want to have a change and experience myself in a different way. So I thought starting college gymnastics would be the perfect way. I want to focus on this season and help my team win the national championship. After the season, I will think about elite again."

 
Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 11 January 2018 10:33    PDF Print
Steingruber: 'I Just Couldn't Wait To Come Back'
(6 votes, average 3.33 out of 5)



Featured in the December 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine, Switzerland's Giulia Steingruber said determination helped her earn her first world medal at last fall's worlds championships in Montreal.

Featured in the December 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine, Switzerland's Giulia Steingruber said determination helped her earn her first world championships medal last fall after coming back from an injury.

"I prepared myself as well as I could with my coaches," said Steingruber, who will turn 24 on March 24. "I just couldn't wait to come back and compete."

Steingruber is still recovering from the foot surgery she underwent in January that kept her out of competition for most of 2017. Despite the injury, she had her best finish yet at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal, winning her first world championships medal with the bronze medal on vault and finishing seventh all-around (tying her result from 2013).

Steingruber, who made her world debut in 2010, qualified to five consecutive vault finals from 2011-2017, finally making the podium last fall behind two-time world champion Maria Paseka (Russia) and newcomer Jade Carey (United States). She became only the second Swiss female to win a world medal following compatriot Ariella Käslin, who won the silver medal on vault in 2009.

In the summer of 2016, Steingruber also made history with her bronze medal on vault at the Olympic Games in Rio, where she became the first Swiss female to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics.

The December 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine includes "Montreal Milestones," a collection of profiles on gymnasts including Steingruber, Diana Varinska (Ukraine), Tin Srbić (Croatia), Jorge Vega (Guatemala) and Claudia Fragapane (Great Britain). To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 10 January 2018 23:58    PDF Print
Raisman Slams USAG: 'You Are 100% Responsible' for Nassar
(11 votes, average 4.09 out of 5)



Two-time U.S. Olympic team captain Aly Raisman delivered a scathing response on Wednesday to USA Gymnastics' statement denying accusations it pressured gymnasts to keep quiet about allegations of sexual assault by former team doctor Larry Nassar. Pictured: Raisman celebrates her silver medal with teammate Simone Biles after their 1-2 finish in the all-around at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Two-time U.S. Olympic team captain Aly Raisman delivered a scathing response on Wednesday to USA Gymnastics' statement denying accusations it pressured gymnasts to keep quiet about allegations of sexual assault by former team doctor Larry Nassar.

In a statement Tuesday, USA Gymnastics stated it did not initially report Nassar following statements from the first two gymnasts to make allegations — Maggie Nichols and Raisman — in the summer of 2015.

"The information that Maggie and later a second athlete provided was important, but did not provide reasonable suspicion that sexual abuse had occurred," USA Gymnastics said.

On Tuesday, Nichols came forward to reveal she and her coach were the first to blow the whistle on Nassar, and she and her family alleged they were pressured by USA Gymnastics to keep the abuse secret.

Raisman called out the federation on Twitter, tweeting USA Gymnastics and its followers directly in a message in which she stated they were "100% responsible" for Nassar's abuse:

".@USAGym STOP VICTIM SHAMING," Raisman tweeted. "Your statements are hurtful. If you did not believe that I & others were abused than why pressure & manipulate us? WE WERE MOLESTED BY A MONSTER U ENABLED 2 THRIVE FOR DECADES. You are 100% responsible. It was mandatory to get "treatment" by Nassar."

In her autobiography, Fierce, that came out in November, Raisman describe the abuse she suffered by Nassar — who sexually assaulted girls and women while claiming it was valid medical treatment to relieve pain — as well as the factors that led her to deny it was occurring. She also described the June 2015 conversation she and two unnamed gymnasts had at the U.S. national training center at the Karolyi ranch, which was overheard by the first gymnast's coach, now revealed to be Sarah Jantzi, Nichols' personal coach from Twin City Twisters in Minnesota.

Raisman wrote that when a consultant, Fran Sepler, was sent to the Raisman home shortly after the camp to interview her about Nassar, she initially defended Nassar's treatments and said she trusted him; however, she changed her mind the same day and reported the real story and all her encounters with Nassar over the past five years.

"So I called a USA Gymnastics official and I told her everything that I was remembering, the things I would have told Fran if I hadn't been in shock, " Raisman wrote in Fierce. "Hours later, I got a text back from someone, saying that I needed to stop speaking about Larry. I was warned that there is a process in place and that staying clear of the process would protect me and the others."

Even before coming forward with her own story last fall, Raisman has been an outspoken critic of USA Gymnastics' leadership. When former USAG CEO Steve Penny finally resigned under pressure last March and was given a $1 million+ severance package, the six-time Olympic medalist mocked the board and asked why the $1 million wasn't spent on providing counseling to Nassar's victims.

Last August, Raisman attended the P&G (U.S.) Championships in Anaheim, where she spoke candidly to the media about the troubling allegations concerning USA Gymnastics, though she did not reveal at the time that she had also been assaulted. She later said she and her teammates from the 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning team were snubbed by the members of the USAG board at a luncheon honoring the team's induction into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. She spoke about the incident in an interview on 60 Minutes last fall, in which she stated that the culture of abuse within USA Gymnastics enabled Nassar and others to groom and silence victims.

USA Gymnastics has denied liability for Nassar's sexual assaults, both in public statements and in court filings.

"We must investigate to figure out the many flaws in @USAGym system," Raisman tweeted Wednesday. "We must understand how this happened to make sure it never occurs again. This problem is bigger than Penny and Nassar. The system has to change so that athletes are safe. Enablers need to be held accountable."

Raisman sent a third Tweet also directed at the U.S. Olympic Committee (Team USA), which is also being sued over the former doctor's assaults:

"If athlete safety is the number 1 priority for @TeamUSA & @USAGym, why don't they want to know all the factors that contributed to the worst case of sexual abuse in the history of sports? #INVESTIGATE #WeNeedAnswers."

On December 7, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for charges related to child pornography. On January 16, he will face the first of two sentencings in Michigan courtrooms on 10 charges of sexual assault of minors, which he pleaded guilty to in November, the first time he admitted sexually abusing athletes under the guise of treatment.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 09 January 2018 23:24    PDF Print
USA Gymnastics Denies Cover Up of Nichols Complaint
(6 votes, average 4.33 out of 5)



The parents of world champion Maggie Nichols have alleged that USA Gymnastics pressured them to keep quiet for more than a year after the gymnast made allegations of sexual assault by then-team doctor Larry Nassar to USAG. USA Gymnastics has denied any allegations of a cover-up.

The parents of world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols have alleged that USA Gymnastics pressured them to keep quiet for more than a year after the gymnast made allegations of sexual assault by then-team doctor Larry Nassar to USAG. Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney have made similar allegations against USA Gymnastics, which issued a statement Tuesday flatly denying any allegations of a cover-up in the Nassar scandal that only continues to widen in 2018.

The statement made by USA Gymnastics — sent to IG Tuesday afternoon and then posted on the USAG website — conflicts with the accounts of the three gymnasts and their families, and it also appears to be inconsistent in some ways with comments made Tuesday by Fran Sepler, a Minneapolis-based human resources consultant USAG hired to interview the gymnasts in 2015.

Nichols, 20, came forward early Tuesday to reveal she was the first known gymnast to report Nassar's assaults to USA Gymnastics — for the past 18 months, she has been referred to as "Athlete A" in legal documents to protect her identity. At the national team camp at the Karolyi ranch in June 2015, Nichols' coach, Sarah Jantzi, became alarmed when overhearing Nichols and two other gymnasts discussing Nassar's uncomfortable treatments. After confirming with Nichols what Nassar had been doing, Jantzi reported the assaults to Rhonda Faehn, USA Gymnastics women's program director, and Nichols' mother, Gina, in Minnesota. Maggie Nichols also shared Facebook messages Nassar had sent the teen, reportedly telling her how beautiful she looked, which were also reported to Faehn and Penny.

The accounts described by Maggie Nichols, who helped the U.S. women win a team gold medal in October 2015 at the world championships in Glasgow, and her parents echo the story first told in Raisman's best-selling autobiography, Fierce, which was published in November. Raisman recounted the same incident at the national team camp in June 2015, as she was one of the two gymnasts talking to Nichols (although in her book she did not identify by name the other gymnasts or the coach who overheard them talking). Nichols is among more than 130 gymnasts suing USA Gymnastics and/or Michigan State University over Nassar; she joined the lawsuit in August 2017 under the alias Jane A68 Doe.

USA Gymnastics has faced criticism for its response to the Nassar allegations, particularly for not immediately filing a police report after Jantzi first reported what she had learned. Instead, the governing body hired a human resources consultant named Fran Sepler, who specializes in workplace harassment issues, to interview Nichols and Raisman at their homes in Minnesota and Massachusetts, respectively. According to Nichols' parents, Dr. John and Gina Nichols, they erroneously believed that Sepler was an investigator from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

According to USA Gymnastics' statement today, "USA Gymnastics immediately contacted [Nichols'] parents and hired an experienced, independent investigator to speak with her and others at a mutually agreed date and time. The information that Maggie and later a second athlete provided was important, but did not provide reasonable suspicion that sexual abuse had occurred."

However, Sepler told Sports Illustrated she was only hired to interview the gymnasts.

"I was not hired as an investigator," Sepler said. "I was only asked to conduct several interviews by US Gymnastics (sic), who indicated they were conducting an investigation into allegations and needed someone who was a skilled interviewer. I did not decide who to speak to and did not provide any advice or recommendations except that law enforcement needed to be involved."

According to Raisman, she was also under the impression that Sepler was an investigator, as she states that Penny personally called her and said a "private investigator" would be visiting her. While Raisman admitted to Sepler that Nassar had touched her in ways that made her feel uncomfortable, she initially defended him because, as she later wrote, she was afraid of speaking up. According to her autobiography, she described herself as being paralyzed by shock and fear of what an allegation would mean against a highly respected doctor, and that it could create a scandal that might destroy her chances of competing at the 2016 Olympics. She explained to the investigator that Nassar probably did not mean to hurt anybody deliberately and that he was her friend who brought her gifts and tried to help her.

However, Raisman wrote that after Sepler left, she realized she had been in deep denial and could no longer make excuses for Nassar. ("I wanted to throw up," she wrote of that moment.) She said she immediately contacted USA Gymnastics as Sepler apparently did not leave her contact info should she decide to follow up with her.

"So I called a USA Gymnastics official and I told her everything that I was remembering, the things I would have told Fran if I hadn't been in shock, " Raisman wrote. "Hours later, I got a text back from someone, saying that I needed to stop speaking about Larry. I was warned that there is a process in place and that staying clear of the process would protect me and the others."

According to the Nichols' lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, Penny immediately "discouraged [Maggie's parents] from reporting Nassar's conduct to law enforcement and pressured them to keep the matter quiet." The Nichols stated that Penny repeatedly assured them that the federation was handling the matter along with the FBI and they should not pursue separate legal charges against Nassar.

"I got a phone call probably the next day [from] Steve Penny," Gina Nichols told Sports Illustrated on Tuesday. "He called me, I don't know how many times, to talk to me about it and make sure that I understood they were taking care of it."

Nassar, who was appointed USA Gymnastics' National Medical Coordinator in 1996, quietly left USA Gymnastics in September 2015. He remained on staff at his primary employer, Michigan State University, in East Lansing, and continued to act as physician to gymnasts at the Twistars club in Lansing and a nearby high school. None of the allegations against him were reported to the police, Michigan State University, Twistars, the school, the Michigan Board of Medicine or any other organization he was still affiliated with.

In her book, Raisman wrote that she and her family became concerned in September 2015, when Nassar posted a long message on Facebook announcing his decision to retire from USA Gymnastics to focus on a run for the local school board. She wrote that their repeated efforts to get updates on the case against Nassar were met with assurances from USA Gymnastics that they should not interfere.

"Has USA Gymnastics gone to the authorities?" Raisman wrote in Fierce. "Would he go to jail? I wanted to be sure he would no longer be working as a doctor. My mom and I reached out to USA Gymnastics. They assured us that the situation was being handled, and said that we shouldn't interfere. Concerned we would jeopardize the case against him, we took USA Gymnastics at their word. We continued to reach out. Each time, we were told that they were handling it, but there was little that they could reveal."

Gina Nichols stated that the family felt pressure from Penny to do as he told them, as they feared disregarding his instructions could not only jeopardize the FBI investigation but also could negatively affect their daughter's chances of making the 2016 Olympic team.

"When I have the president of USA Gymnastics telling me what to do, he's in a position of power over me," she explained. "We've given our whole family up to get our daughter to this point and [when] I have Steve Penny telling me 'this is what we're going to do, we're going to be quiet,' I'm going to listen to him. I'm not going to jeopardize my daughter's chance of going to the Olympics."

Nichols, despite making a strong comeback from a torn meniscus suffered in early 2016, was not selected for a spot on the five-member Olympic team or as one of the three alternates after the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in July. She announced her retirement from elite gymnastics to focus on collegiate gymnastics. In a heartfelt note announcing her retirement, she stated that USA Gymnastics had extended an invitation to her to return to the Karolyi ranch to train alongside the Olympic squad before they left for Brazil. She declined.

According to USA Gymnastics, "Maggie's conversation overheard by a coach and her willingness to be interviewed about her comments and experiences initiated the process that resulted in the conviction of Larry Nassar for the reprehensible crimes he committed."

However, USA Gymnastics claim that Maggie Nichols' complaint to USA Gymnastics led to his conviction is not supported by any facts known to the public. It is entirely inconsistent with the two county affidavits for his arrests in Michigan for sexual assault and federal affidavit related to child pornography. While USA Gymnastics states it filed a complaint with the FBI in July 2015, and the Nichols family confirmed Maggie spoke with an FBI agent one year later, Nassar was never arrested by the FBI in relation to any assaults. He continued to practice medicine for 15 months.

Following a series of investigative reports by The Indianapolis Star into USA Gymnastics' historic handling of sex abuse, first published August 4, 2016, former Michigan club gymnast Rachael Denhollander spoke to the newspaper about being assaulted by Nassar at age 15. She then filed a police report with the Michigan State University Police Department. The next day, August 30, Michigan State University suspended Nassar pending investigation. 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher, also reportedly encouraged to act by the The Indianapolis Star series, filed a Jane Doe lawsuit in California on September 8. After Dantzscher's lawsuit and Denhollander's allegations were made public in The Indianapolis Star on September 12, more women came forward and contacted the Indianapolis newspaper, as well as the Lansing State Journal. Dozens of police complaints were filed in Michigan alleging sexual assaults by Nassar, mostly on the MSU campus and at the Twistars club. Law enforcement searched Nassar's home on September 20 — the same day he was fired by MSU — and discovered more than 37,000 files of child pornography on hard drives he had thrown in the garbage taken out for collection, according to a federal affidavit.

In October 2016, after a request by the MSU Police Department, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette opened an investigation that led to Nassar being arrested and charged with multiple counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in two counties. He was freed on bail and maintained his innocence. On December 16, 2016, he was indicted in federal court and arrested for the receipt of and possession of child pornography. (A third charge, related to his attempted concealment by the destruction of his computer hard drives, was added later.) He was denied bail in federal court, with the judge stating Nassar posed "the worst kind of threat." He has been imprisoned since then.

The FBI has refused all comment on its investigation and has not explained why it did not apparently initiate a joint investigation with local law enforcement agencies in Texas and Michigan. At least 19 victims stated they were abused by Nassar in the 15 months after USA Gymnastics was first alerted by Nichols' coach and before allegations against him were made public in September 2016.

Nassar pleaded guilty to the child pornography charges in July 2017 but continued to deny he had ever assaulted anyone, insisting that he had performed valid osteopathic procedures. After more than a year of maintaining his innocence, Nassar pleaded guilty in November 2017 to the state charges as part of a plea deal with the attorney general. For the first time, he admitted that the intra-vaginal penetration and other invasive touching he had done were entirely for his own gratification and were not medical treatment. According to reports, Nassar confessed to local police that he had committed these assaults "thousands of times" during his work with athletes and other women. Last month, Nassar, 54, was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on the three charges related to child pornography. He will be sentenced next week on 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct related to assaults in his home state of Michigan, a term he must serve before his federal sentence. The judge has reserved three days for any victims, including ones abused outside of Michigan, to read an impact statement prior to his sentencing.

In October 2017, 2012 Olympic gold and silver medalist McKayla Maroney came forward to reveal she had been abused by Nassar, alleging his abuse extended to drugging her with a sedative on an international flight to Japan, after which she woke up in his hotel room in Tokyo with him on top of her, and outright assaults not disguised as treatment. Maroney became the most high-profile victim of Nassar to come forward, and she was followed shortly by Raisman and Gabby Douglas. (Nichols noted the three gymnasts' bravery in her decision to come forward Tuesday). In December, Maroney filed a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, MSU and Nassar, in which she alleged she was pressured to sign a confidentiality agreement by USA Gymnastics in December 2016 in order to receive a $1.25 million settlement. Confidentiality agreements in civil lawsuits concerning felony sex offenses are illegal in California, according to the 2016 California Code of Civil Procedure and multiple attorneys commenting on the Maroney-USAG case. USA Gymnastics has denied the settlement agreement was illegal.

The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors continued to publicly support Steve Penny despite calls for him (and board members) to resign. Penny was forced to resign in March 2017 after pressure from the U.S. Olympic Committee. The board voted to award Penny upwards of $1 million as a severance package. Paul Parilla, chairman of the board of USAG, acted as CEO until Penny's replacement, Kerry Perry, took over the role in December.

Statement from USA Gymnastics on Maggie Nichols

January 9, 2018
"USA Gymnastics admires Maggie Nichols' bravery and encourages our athletes and others, like Maggie, to share their personal experiences with abuse. We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career. USA Gymnastics is focused every day on creating a culture of empowerment that encourages our athletes to speak up about abuse and other difficult topics.

Maggie's conversation overheard by a coach and her willingness to be interviewed about her comments and experiences initiated the process that resulted in the conviction of Larry Nassar for the reprehensible crimes he committed.

Contrary to reported accusations, USA Gymnastics never attempted to hide Nassar's misconduct. The suggestion by plaintiff's counsel John Manly, who indicates that he is representing Maggie, that USA Gymnastics tried to silence athletes or keep the investigation secret to avoid headlines before the Rio Olympics and to protect Los Angeles' Olympic bid is entirely baseless. USA Gymnastics kept the matter confidential because of the FBI's directive not to interfere with the investigation.

USA Gymnastics reported Nassar to the FBI in July 2015 and to a different FBI office again in April 2016. When Maggie's comments were relayed by her coach to the organization, USA Gymnastics immediately contacted her parents and hired an experienced, independent investigator to speak with her and others at a mutually agreed date and time. The information that Maggie and later a second athlete provided was important, but did not provide reasonable suspicion that sexual abuse had occurred. Following a third athlete interview on Friday, July 24, 2015, the investigator recommended that USA Gymnastics report to law enforcement, and USA Gymnastics contacted the FBI on the next business day, Monday, July 27. When USA Gymnastics representatives met with the FBI on Tuesday, July 28, 2015, they disclosed the information received during all three interviews, including Maggie's. The FBI then took over the matter, and it decided who to speak with and when. USA Gymnastics cooperated fully with the FBI, including the agents' July 28, 2015, request to not do anything that might interfere with their investigation. USA Gymnastics interpreted that request to mean that it should not discuss the matter, and it refrained from doing so.

Except with law enforcement, USA Gymnastics did not identify any interviewed athletes by name to protect their privacy, including Maggie, who was a minor at the time. At all times, USA Gymnastics has attempted to support athletes' desire for confidentiality or public disclosure, and it has commended every athlete who has come forward to report abuse and will continue to do so.

USA Gymnastics is committed every day to ensuring our athletes are safe and further developing a culture of empowerment. The new CEO Kerry Perry is eager to meet and talk with Maggie and others who can help guide and lead these efforts. USA Gymnastics has and will continue to take specific and concrete steps to prevent future abuse by vigorously enforcing the USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy. We are focused on further developing a culture that has safe sport as a top priority throughout the organization."

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 09 January 2018 07:34    PDF Print
Maggie Nichols, 'Athlete A', Steps Forward to Confirm Nassar Abuse
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Former U.S. national team member Maggie Nichols has come forward to confirm she was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar.

Former U.S. national team member Maggie Nichols has come forward to confirm she was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar. Nichols has joined McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas in accusing Nassar of sexual assault, and she cited the three Olympians in her decision to go public.

Nichols states that she and her coach were the first to file a complaint against Nassar with USA Gymnastics, informing former CEO Steve Penny in the summer of 2015. Nichols has been identified as "Athlete A" in legal documents.

"Up until now, I was identified as Athlete A by USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University," Nichols said. "I want everyone to know that he did not do this to Athlete A, he did it to Maggie Nichols."

Nichols, 20, is among more than 130 women who have filed civil suits against Nassar, USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and/or the United States Olympic Committee. In November, Nassar, a former osteopathic physician, admitted sexually assaulting young girls under the guise of treatment, after previously insisting he was performing a legitimate medical procedure for back and hip injuries. He has been in prison since December 2016.

Even though Nichols' coach, Sarah Jantzi of Twin City Twisters, reportedly informed USA Gymnastics about Nassar in the summer of 2015, it was not until September 12, 2016, when 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher and former club gymnast Rachael Denhollander came forward with the first public accusations, that Nassar was removed from practice. Nassar was fired from MSU on September 20 and stripped of his medical license in April 2017.


Maggie Nichols with her coach, Sarah Jantzi, at an international meet held in 2013 in Chemnitz, Germany.

According to lawsuits against USA Gymnastics, Penny did not contact the FBI until five weeks after being notified of the allegations against Nassar. Nassar, who had announced in 2014 that he planned to step down from his role after the 2016 Olympics, quietly left USA Gymnastics in 2015 but continued to practice in Michigan, both at Michigan State University in East Lansing and at the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Lansing.

USA Gymnastics ignored demands for Penny and members of its board to step down. After the U.S. Olympic Committee executive board announced it would formally recommend Penny leave the federation, he resigned in March. He reportedly received $1 million severance package as part of his departure. Procter & Gamble, Kellogg's, Hershey's and Under Armour all abandoned their sponsorship of USA Gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics has denied liability for Nassar's assaults, including lawsuits filed concerning abuse suffered after Nassar left in 2015. According to documents filed by a USA Gymnastics attorney in Michigan on December 7, "USAG had no duty to inform MSU, Twistars or others of the reported concerns about Nassar."

MSU has set aside $10 million to provide counseling for the victims, but has denied it covered up Nassar's abuse, despite allegations its employees were informed as far back as 1997. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who led the prosecution of Nassar on state charges, is currently considering a full investigation into the university. MSU President Lou Anna Simon has resisted public pressure to step down over the university's handling of the case.

Nichols was a member of the first-place American team at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, where she also won a bronze medal on floor exercise. She suffered a torn meniscus in early 2016, but despite making a strong comeback in time for the U.S. Olympic Trials, was not named to the U.S. Olympic team. She is now a sophomore for the University of Oklahoma gymnastics team, which won the NCAA Championships last spring. A fan favorite, she is nicknamed "Swaggie Maggie" for her style.

The Little Canada, Minnesota native released a statement on Tuesday through her attorney, John Manly, who is also representing Dantzscher, Maroney and others.

In December, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography. Next week he is scheduled to be sentenced in Ingham County, Michigan, for sexual assault charges, which he pleaded guilty to in November as part of a plea agreement with the attorney general. The judge has set aside four days for victims to share impact statements.

Statement from Maggie Nichols

January 9, 2018

"Recently, three of my friends and former National Team members who medaled at the 2012 Olympics have bravely stepped forward to proclaim they were sexually assaulted by USA Gymnastics Team Physician Dr. Larry Nassar.

Today I join them.

I am making the decision to tell my traumatic story and hope to join the forces with my friends and teammates to bring about true change.

Up until now, I was identified as Athlete A by USA gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University. I want everyone to know that he did not do this to Athlete A, he did it to Maggie Nichols.

In the summer of 2015, my coach and I reported this abuse to USA Gymnastics leadership.

I want everyone to know that he did not do this to Athlete A, he did it to Maggie Nichols.

I first started Gymnastics when I was three and since I was a child, I always had the dream of competing for my country in the Olympic Games. I made elite level gymnastics when I was 13. By the time I was 14, I made the USA National Team. I traveled internationally for 4 years attending competitions and in 2015 competed at the World Championships representing our country.

People who watch gymnastics see young girls fly through the air and do all kinds of amazing things. You can imagine that having a good doctor is absolutely necessary to compete at the highest level. Dr. Larry Nassar was regarded throughout the sport as the very best by coaches and staff throughout the gymnastics community. He was a doctor at Michigan State University and the Olympic and Team USA doctor assigned to us by USA Gymnastics at the Olympic Training Center at the Karolyi Ranch. He was supposed to care for us and treat our injuries. The first time I met Dr. Nassar I was about 13 or 14 years old and receiving treatment for an elbow injury. At the time it seemed like he knew exactly what therapy was necessary for me to recover. Initially, he did nothing unusual.

But when I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch. This is when the changes in his medical treatments occurred.

My back was really hurting me, I couldn't even really bend down, and I remember he took me into the training room, closed the door and closed the blinds. At the time I thought this was kind of weird but figured it must be okay. I thought he probably didn't want to distract the other girls and I trusted him.

I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn't think he should. He didn't have gloves on and he didn't tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.

He did this "treatment" on me, on numerous occasions.

Not only was Larry Nassar my doctor, I thought he was my friend. He contacted me on Facebook complimenting me and telling me how beautiful I looked on numerous occasions. But I was only 15 and I just thought he was trying to be nice to me. Now I believe this was part of the grooming process I recently learned about.

One day at practice, I was talking to my teammate, and brought up Dr. Nassar and his treatments. When I was talking to her, my coach overheard. I had never told my coach about these treatments. After hearing our conversation she asked me more questions about it and said it doesn't seem right. I showed her the Facebook messages and told her about what Nassar was doing. My coach thought it was wrong, so she did the right thing and reported this abuse to the USA Gymnastics staff.

USA Gymnastics and the USOC did not provide a safe environment for me and my teammates to train. We were subjected to Dr. Nassar at every National Team Camp which occurred monthly at the Karolyi Ranch. His job was to care for our health and treat our injuries. Instead, he violated our innocence.

I later found out that Michigan State University had ignored complaints against Larry Nassar from other girls going back 20 years and had investigated him for sexual assault in 2014. They never told USA Gymnastics. If they had, I might never have met Larry Nassar and I would never have been abused by him.

I have come to the realization that my voice can have influence over the manner in which our USA athletes are treated.

Throughout everything that has happened, my faith in God has sustained me. I would like to let everyone know that I am doing OK. My strong faith has helped me endure. It is a work in progress. I will strive to ensure the safety of young athletes who have big dreams just like mine and I will encourage them to stand up and speak if something doesn't seem right.

I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart that has helped me through this difficult time. My parents, coaches, and friends who have known about it, and that have stood by my side through it all. I would not have been able to be so strong without each of you."

 


Page 10 of 227