It saddens me that a sport I loved so deeply as I grew up and engaged in for years allowed such abuses to happen. McKayla Maroney was one of my favs. Her vault in London during the team final will go down in gymnastics history as one of the best ever performed. And now this.
Two time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney revealed on Wednesday that her former USA Gymnastics doctor sexually abused her for seven years — starting when she was just 13.
Maroney identified convicted sex offender Larry Nassar as her repeat abuser in a statement inspired by the #MeToo movement, which encourages those who’ve been victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault to speak out.
Nassar has been accused of molesting dozens of young athletes associated with USA Gymnastics and his Michigan State University clinic.
He is being sued by more than 125 women claiming he sexually assaulted them under the pretense of medical treatment.
But Maroney on Wednesday said her famous scowl came on the heels of one of Nassar’s abusive episodes.
Maroney became a viral sensation during the 2012 Olympics in London when she famously scowled on the podium after winning just the silver medal in the vault event.
President Obama doubled down on the “McKayla Is Not Impressed” meme in a photo with her in the Oval Office in November 2012.
“It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated,’” Maroney wrote. “It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver.”
Maroney, now 21, said her 2012 Olympic victories were marred by his abuse.
In a statement to ABC News Wednesday, USA Gymnastics said it “admires the courage of those, like McKayla Maroney, who have come forward to share their personal experiences with sexual abuse.
“We, like so many others, are outraged and disgusted by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career.
We are strengthening and enhancing our policies and procedures regarding abuse, as well as expanding our educational efforts to increase awareness of signs to watch for and reporting suspicions of abuse, including the obligation to immediately report,” the organization added.
Maroney said Nassar’s abuse began at a Karolyi training camp in Texas and continued until she retired from gymnastics last year.
She said the worst of the abuse took place during the 2011 world championships in Japan, when she became a breakout star. She said Nassar gave her a sleeping pill on the flight to Tokyo and she woke up in his hotel room, once again “getting a ‘treatment.’”
“I thought I was going to die that night,” she wrote.
She remembered watching the 2004 Olympic games in Athens as an 8-year-old and said she had hopes of one day competing. And while she fulfilled her dreams, she lamented the abuse she suffered along the way.
“Sure, from the outside looking in, it’s an amazing story. I did it. I got there, but not without a price,” she added.
It’s unclear if Maroney is a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against Nassar.
FBI Agent Rod Charles testified in his 2016 child porn case that Nassar targeted victims as young as six. He would tell his victims that the abuse, which often involved digital penetration, would help treat hip or back pain, according to court papers.
Nassar tried to dispose of several hard drives, which were filled with tens of thousands of child porn images, according to a transcript of his arraignment.
He pleaded guilty to child porn possession in July and is awaiting trial in three criminal cases alleging that he sexually molested nine girls, including nine gymnasts seeking treatment for injuries.
He has pleaded not guilty to those accusations, and his attorney said Nassar intends to go to trial in December.
Jamie Dantzscher, 35, was an early accuser of Nassar. She, too, claimed he abused her while claiming to be providing her with medical treatment.
She won a team bronze in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Rachael Denhollander has alleged that Nassar abused her five times when she was 15 in Nassar’s office at Michigan State.
Denhollander told the Indianapolis Star that Nassar abused her treating her for back pain in 2000.
Three-time national champion rhythmic gymnast Jessica Howard was another victim. In an op-ed in the New York Times this year, she called for “additional systemic change … to safeguard athletes from psychological and physical abuse.”
When you’re a gymnast, you’re at the mercy of the team doctors, coaches and leaders. You can’t speak out or you will be at risk for losing everything you worked hard for. Every penny your family spent to make your dreams come true. And your reputation if other girls say they weren’t molested or accuse you of lying because they like said person who is being accused. It’s a messy trap. And one the Karoyli’s (who I despise) allowed to take place. Shame on them.
It’s a shame to know that while McKayla was giving the performance of her life, she was also suffering in this horrific way.