LANSING, Mich. — In December 2016, as part of a settlement agreement with USA Gymnastics over sexual abuse at the hands of former team doctor Larry Nassar, Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney signed a confidentiality agreement. It barred her from speaking about the case, unless under subpoena, or face a $100,000 fine.
Considering the acts of Nassar and the fact Maroney was repeatedly assaulted and raped by Nassar from the age of 15 through her retirement, including during her medal winning days at the 2012 London Olympics, it was a pathetic demand from USAG. That Maroney suffered from deep depression, suicidal instincts and mountains of medical and counselling bills because of it, made the agreement inexcusably evil.
It was so pathetic that even the USAG came to its senses, lifting the non-disclosure clause after widespread media and public outrage, including a pledge by supermodel Chrissy Teigen to pay the fine.
At last free to tell her story, Maroney, 22, didn’t hesitate.
On Thursday in a Michigan courtroom, a statement was read from her detailing her abuse at the hands of Nassar and calling out USAG, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, where Nassar worked, for not stopping him when they could.
“I had a dream to go to the Olympics,” Maroney wrote in the statement, read in court by prosecutor Angela Povilaitis. “The things I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting.”
Maroney began gymnastics at 18 months because her mother, Erin, said she needed to find a way to tire out a child with limitless energy. By six, she was competing and believed she would make the Olympics one day. At 14, she was on the national team. At 17, she won a team gold and an individual silver in London, a disappointment on the vault which caused her to issue a “not impressed” smile that went so viral she even reenacted it in the Oval Office with President Obama.
That was the public glory. The private hell was churning inside.
“Sure, from the outside looking in, it’s a remarkable story,” Maroney said of achieving her Olympic dreams. “I did it. I got there.
“But not without a price.”
Nassar, 54, is already serving 60 years in federal prison on a child pornography conviction. He is facing up to 125 additional years here in Ingham County for molesting over 100 girls, many of them local gymnasts but others national team members whom he “treated” through his work with USAG. He faces additional charges in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As part of the sentencing, Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina is allowing any and all of his victims to address Nassar and the court. The remarkable hearing began Tuesday and is scheduled for four days. With over 105 seeking to speak, a number that grows each day, Aquilina said it may stretch into the middle of next week.
Maroney is sadly, terribly, one of many. Desperate for help with injuries that might keep her from training and derail her gymnastics goals, she turned to Nassar, a renowned physician. He told her that his unorthodox treatment methods had worked on generations of gymnastic greats. Due to the USAG’s rule of prohibiting parents from accompanying their children during national camps and competition, she, just a teenager, was left to believe him.
“I was told to trust him,” Maroney said.
He, instead, raped her. Repeatedly.
“As it turns out, much to my demise, Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” Maroney said. “He was and forever will be a child molester, a monster of a human being. End of story. He abused my trust. He abused my body. And he left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”
Nassar sat motionless as the statement was read, with a picture of Maroney up on a projection screen in the small Courtroom 5 here in downtown Lansing. He looked as weak and bewildered as ever.
“It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated,’ ” Maroney said of the abuse. “It happened in London before my team and I won a gold medal and it happened before I won my silver medal.”
She said the worst was when she was 15 and scheduled to compete in Japan.
“I had flown all day and night to get to Tokyo,” Maroney said. “He gave me a sleeping pill for the flight and next thing I remember I was alone in his hotel room getting a treatment. I thought I was going to die that night.”
Maroney took particular aim at MSU, USAG and the USOC for failing to stop him, ignoring complaints, conducting weak investigations and not communicating with each other after issues arose.
She implored outside law enforcement to investigate all three institutions. Similar calls have been made by others, but even in Michigan, the state attorney general has not yet begun an investigation into Michigan State the way the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office did to Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
“A simple fact is this, if Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics or the U.S. Olympic committee had paid attention to any of the red flags on his behavior I would never have met him, I would never have been treated by him, I would never have been abused by him,” Maroney said.
That reality hung in the air. Throughout the packed courtroom, fellow victims nodded their heads. Many, just like Maroney, are trying to rebuild their lives. Many, like Maroney’s parents, are equally racked with grief, regret and anger.
As these stories grind on, one heroic truth after the next. The worst part is the stories are so similar.
Whether you were a famous Olympian from California or a just beginning gymnast in mid-Michigan, the voices change, the words are too often the same.
McKayla Maroney, finally free to roar from the USAG’s deplorable settlement, was physically far away from here.
Her words rang out, though, rang out among the chorus of so many others gathered here to confront and stop the nightmare of all their lives.