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Monday 22 October 2018

Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor

McKayla Maroney won a team gold and an individual silver on vault as part of the US women's team at the 2012 Olympics in London (AP)
McKayla Maroney won a team gold and an individual silver on vault as part of the US women's team at the 2012 Olympics in London (AP)

Two-time Olympic medallist McKayla Maroney has said she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor.

She said the abuse started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

She posted a lengthy statement on Twitter detailing allegations against Larry Nassar, who spent three decades working with athletes at USA Gymnastics but now is in jail in Michigan awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.

Nassar also is awaiting trial on separate criminal sexual conduct charges and has been sued by more than 125 women alleging abuse.

He has pleaded not guilty to the assault charges, and the dozens of civil suits filed in Michigan are in mediation.

Maroney, now 21, said the abuse began at a US national team training camp at Karolyi Ranch in Sam Houston Forest, north of Houston, Texas.

She was 13 at the time and she wrote that Nassar told her she was receiving "medically necessary treatment he had been performing on patients for over 30 years".

Maroney, who won a team gold and an individual silver on vault as part of the "Fierce Five" US women's team at the 2012 Olympics in London, said Nassar continued to give her "treatment" throughout her career.

She described him giving her a sleeping pill while the team travelled to Japan for the 2011 world championships. She said he later visited her in her hotel room after the team arrived in Tokyo, where he molested her again.

"I thought I was going to die that night," she wrote.

Maroney said she decided to come forward as part of the #MeToo movement on social media that arose in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

"This is happening everywhere," Maroney wrote. "Wherever there is a position of power, there is the potential for abuse. I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting."

She called for change, urging other victims to speak out and demanding organisations "be held accountable for their inappropriate actions and behaviour".

Maroney is the highest profile gymnast yet to come forward claiming she was abused by Nassar.

Jamie Dantzscher, a bronze medallist on the 2000 US Olympic team, was part of the initial wave of lawsuits filed against Nassar in 2016.

Aly Raisman, who won six medals while serving as the captain of the US women's team in 2012 and 2016, called for sweeping change at USA Gymnastics in August.

USA Gymnastics launched an independent review of its policies after the allegations against Nassar in summer 2016 after the Indianapolis Star highlighted chronic mishandling of abuse allegations against coaches and staff at some of its more than 3,500 clubs across the country.

Maroney, who lives in California and officially retired in 2015, encouraged others to speak out.

"Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long," she wrote, "and it's time to take our power back."


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