In the News
The New York Times
The Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber told a United States Senate subcommittee on Wednesday that U.S.A. Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Michigan State University had failed to protect its athletes from sexual abuse by Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar.
“To this day, I still don’t know how he could have been allowed to do this for so long,” Ms. Wieber said. “If these institutions had done their job, neither of us would be sitting here today.”
Ms. Wieber and Jamie Dantzscher, a fellow Olympic gymnast, testified in front f a subcommittee tasked with investigating the handling of sexual abuse allegations made by dozens of young female athletes against Dr. Nassar, a former team doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics and a former member of the M.S.U. faculty.
The hearing, held by the subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, which holds jurisdiction over the U.S. Olympic Committee and amateur sports, was the next step in the bipartisan inquiry into the systemic problems of abuse in the American gymnastics program.
At least 265 women came forward to testify against Dr. Nassar in sentencing hearings this winter after he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault and child pornography charges. He is serving the first of what amounts to multiple life sentences in federal prison in Arizona.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and the subcommitee’s ranking member, said Wednesday’s hearing was “a critical step forward.”
“Across Olympic sports, there are stories of young athletes who have been victimized and have survived physical, emotional and sexual abuse,” Senator Blumenthal said. “We want to fight it, and correct it, and prevent it from happening again.”
Ms. Dantzscher, who won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games, said she had spoken out about Dr. Nassar’s abuse beginning that year and received criticism from members of the U.S.A. Gymnastics staff. She urged the committee to question the organization’s former chairman, Paul Parilla, and its former president, Steve Penny, and to hold U.S.A. Gymnastics accountable.
“This is a case of powerful people protecting other powerful people,” Ms. Dantzscher said. “It is up to you, as powerful members of the United States Senate, to hold them accountable, and I believe you will.”
In addition to the gymnasts, a retired former speedskater, Bridie Farrell, and a U.S. figure skater and coach, Craig Maurizi, also testified about having experienced trauma dating to as far as 40 years ago. Mr. Maurizi said he informed the U.S. Figure Skating Association about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a coach, Richard Callaghan, more than a decade ago.
McKayla Maroney, one of Ms. Wieber’s teammates on the 2012 U.S. gymnastics team, submitted written testimony to the committee and said her abuse from Dr. Nassar started when she was 13.
On Tuesday, Ms. Wieber filed a lawsuit against U.S.A. Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Michigan State, alleging that the organizations could have done more to prevent Dr. Nassar from abusing athletes. Nearly 300 similar lawsuits have already been filed against Michigan State and U.S.A. Gymnastics.
“We appreciate the willingness of these athletes — who share in our determination to root out abuse in youth sport governing bodies — to share their stories,” Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas and the chairman of the subcommittee, said, “and aid in our investigation to protect all U.S.O.C. athletes, at all levels, in all sports.”
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