(ATR) The victims of the defrocked doctor who prosecutors say sexually abused more than 100 young women, including Olympic medalists, have their say.
For the rest of the week, dozens of victims will testify in a Michigan courtroom at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar.
Once the medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics and a sports medicine practitioner at Michigan State University, Nassar pleaded guilty in November to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Nassar, 54, faces up to 40 years in prison. He’s already serving 60 years for possession of child pornography.
In the opening day of victim impact statements, Nasser was blamed for shattered lives, psychological issues and suicide.
His boldness was also recognized. One victim said that Nassar assaulted her while her mother was in the room where he conducted a physical exam.
The first instance of Nassar’s predation appears to date to 1994 according to a lawsuit filed by a gymnast who later became an Olympic medalist.
In 1996 Nassar joined the medical team of USA Gymnastics and attended Olympics through Rio in 2016.
This week, Simone Biles, winner of three gold medals in Rio went public for the first time to admit she’s been a victim of abuse by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. She joins fellow Olympians Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney who previously disclosed their experiences with Nassar.
Biles blames USA Gymnastics for failing to protect her and other athletes from Nassar.
"For too long I've asked myself, 'Was I too naive? Was it my fault? I now know the answer to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others," Biles posted on an Instagram account.
"It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the training center where I was abused," says Biles.
"USA Gymnastics is absolutely heartbroken, sorry and angry that Simone Biles or any of our athletes have been harmed by the horrific acts of Larry Nassar," says the national governing body in a statement.
"USA Gymnastics’ support is unwavering for Simone and all athletes who courageously came forward to share their experiences. We are our athletes’ advocates. USA Gymnastics will continue to listen to our athletes and our members in our efforts of creating a culture of empowerment with a relentless focus on athlete safety every single day," says the statement.
The training center Biles references is the Texas ranch of Bela and Martha Karolyi which is designated as the national training site for USA Gymnastics. The NGB is said to be considering a change but has yet to make a move.
Maroney, a double medalist at the London Olympics, filed a civil lawsuit in December naming Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee as defendants. Maroney alleges that these organizations helped cover up Nassar’s criminal behavior.
In a 2016 lawsuit, Maroney received a $1.25 million settlement from USA Gymnastics. She is bound by a non-disclosure agreement in the settlement. If Maroney chooses to speak with other victims at the sentencing hearing this week, she could be subject to a $100,000 penalty.
USA Gymnastics insists it did not ignore the allegations against Nassar when they surfaced in 2015. The USOC also denies obstructing the case against Nassar.
"During my tenure as CEO, which began in 2010, we have never been, and will not be, party to any effort to conceal or keep confidential allegations or instances of sexual abuse," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in an e-mail to USOC board members seen by Around the Rings.
The e-mail was sent soon after Maroney filed suit in December.
"This week it was alleged that the USOC knew what was happening in the Nassar case before it became a law enforcement matter, and that we were involved in or even knew of the terms of any settlement agreement between USA Gymnastics and any athlete. From everything I know and everything I believe, that’s simply not true. I wish we had known earlier," Blackmun writes.
The Michigan State Attorney General’s office says 140 victims are included in their prosecution of Nassar. Nearly 100 of them could speak this week. Michigan state courts allow cameras in the courtroom, so the hearing can be viewed as a live stream from several media outlets in Michigan. Victims have the option to speak but not be seen on camera or submit an anonymous statement read in court by a prosecutor. Two victims delivered their statements Tuesday in videos as they live outside the U.S.
Reported by Ed Hula.