Nassar victims: USA Gymnastics tried to silence us

We’ve already known that USA Gymnastics kept Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of athletes under wraps using a non-disclosure agreement before the scandal made headlines. We also know that the US Olympic Committee knew about Nassar for a year before taking action. At least one athlete says that it might have been kept quiet for as long as five years. An NBC News report over the weekend exposed efforts to silence Nassar’s victims in order to keep the US Olympic effort from being derailed, an effort at times that may have even included the FBI:

USA Gymnastics tried to silence top athletes after they reported being molested by team doctor Larry Nassar and as they pushed to meet with law enforcement officials, the gymnasts and their family members told NBC News.

Claims that the sports federation stressed discretion above all else are bolstered by text messages, emails and other materials reviewed by NBC News during a months-long investigation for a special edition of Dateline that aired Sunday.

USA Gymnastics claims that they were only apprised of the issues with Nassar in 2016. However, McKayla Maroney insists that she blurted out in 2011 that Nassar had sexually assaulted her in her hotel room, with coach John Geddert in the car. Her teammates corroborated the story:

The next day, in a car on the way back to the hotel from training, she said, she loudly blurted out what had happened in earshot of USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert, who didn’t react.

“I just said, ‘Last night, it was like Larry was fingering me,'” she said. Geddert didn’t respond to requests for comment, and USA Gymnastics said it never heard about the incident.

If true, then this puts a lot of pressure on Geddert to answer for his own silence. Did he raise the issue with USA Gymnastics leadership? If so, why didn’t they respond? One has to suspect that the FBI might be interested in some of those answers.

That is, if it’s a non-Olympic year:

The FBI contacted [first public whistleblower Aly] Raisman after the Rio games.

“I said, ‘Why did you wait so long?’ and they said, ‘Oh, we wanted to wait until the Olympics were over,'” she said.

Say what? They were investigating reports of a serial sexual abuser of underage girls connected to the Olympics program, but the games were a higher priority? Perhaps the agents were being flip, but consider that response in light of the pressure on the girls to remain silent. That would only have added to the despair, isolation, and fear that kept them from coming forward for so long.

Be sure to read the whole report, which paints a damning portrait not just of USA Gymnastics but also of the Karolyi camp and ultimately the USOC. They should have acted long before they did, considering when they began to find out about Nassar. The allegations around the Karolyi camp also point out the notable lack of oversight from the USOC over its constituent organizations and facilities.

The US Olympic Committee operates under a grant of authority from Congress. Given what NBC and the Wall Street Journal have found about their actions, perhaps it’s time that Congress terminated that grant and look for a new organization with more accountability to oversee our athletic representation at the Olympics.