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‘He Violated Our Innocence.’ Maggie Nichols Says She Was Abused by Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar

6 minute read

Another elite gymnast has come forward to say she was molested by Larry Nassar, the former longtime doctor for the U.S. national team. Maggie Nichols, a former member of the U.S. national gymnastics team who was a top contender for the 2016 Olympic team, said in a statement released by her attorney Tuesday that she was sexually assaulted by Nassar:

“Recently, three of my friends and former National Team members who medaled at the 2012 Olympics have bravely stepped forward to proclaim they were sexually assaulted by USA Gymnastics Team Physician Dr. Larry Nassar.

Today I join them.

I am making the decision to tell my traumatic story and hope to join forces with my friends and teammates to bring about true change.”

Nichols joins Olympic team members Aly Raisman, Gabrielle Douglas and McKayla Maroney as well as more than 100 other gymnasts and athletes who have accused Nassar of sexual misconduct. The gymnasts report similar experiences in which Nassar touched them inappropriately under the guise of medical treatment.

Nassar’s attorney declined to comment on Nichols’ accusation.

Read more: Aly Raisman Opens Up About Sexual Abuse by USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar

Nichols began competing at a young age, entering junior events in 2011 then progressing to the senior level. In 2015, she earned two world championship medals — a team gold and an individual bronze in the floor exercise.

While she was competing on the national team, she says in her statement, Nassar abused her on “numerous occasions.” As with many of the other elite gymnasts, Nichols’ interaction with Nassar began when she began having health issues, in her case with her back.

“When I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch. My back was really hurting me, I couldn’t even really bend down, and I remember he took me into the training room, closed the door and closed the blinds. At the time I thought this was kind of weird but figured it must be okay. I thought he probably didn’t want to distract the other girls and I trusted him.

I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.”

It was Nichols ended up accelerating the inquiry by USA Gymnastics into Nassar that eventually led to his arrest in 2016. In the summer of 2015, Nichols said she was talking to a teammate while at the training camp about whether Nassar’s treatments seemed appropriate. Her coach overheard her conversation and asked Nichols about the treatments she was receiving, which she had never discussed with her coach before. At the same time, Nichols also shared with her coach Facebook interactions she had with Nassar.

“Not only was Larry Nassar my doctor, I thought he was my friend,” Nichols says in her statement. “He contacted me on Facebook complimenting me and telling me how beautiful I looked on numerous occasions. But I was only 15 and I just thought he was trying to be nice to me. Now I believe this was part of the grooming process I recently learned about.”

Read more: USA Gymnastics Paid McKayla Maroney to Keep Quiet About Alleged Sexual Abuse, Lawsuit Alleges

Aly Raisman, the reigning Olympic silver medalist and two-time Olympian, reported similar interactions with Nassar in her book Fierce, noting that he made her feel as if he was her only support at the regimented, challenging training camps where the girls spent a week away from their families.

As an unidentified plaintiff, Nichols and her family sued USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), and Michigan State University (MSU), where Nassar was employed from 1997 until he was fired in 2016. Two years before, in 2014, he was allowed to “retire” from USA Gymnastics.

Read more: Review Sharply Criticizes How USA Gymnastics Handled Sexual Abuse Complaints

“USA Gymnastics and the USOC did not provide a safe environment for me and my teammates to train,” Nichols said in her statement. “We were subjected to Dr. Nassar at every National Team Camp, which occurred monthly at the Karolyi Ranch. His job was to care for our health and treat our injuries. Instead, he violated our innocence.”

Nicols retired from elite gymnastics after not making the 2016 Rio Olympic team following an injury. She now competes for the University of Oklahoma. She finished last season as the No. 1 ranked collegiate gymnast in the all-around, beam and floor exercise.

Read more: Who Is Larry Nassar, the Former USA Gymnastics Doctor Aly Raisman Accuses of Sexual Abuse?

Olympian Maroney said she was paid by USA Gymnastics to remain quiet about her allegations of abuse by Nassar, after she and her family agreed to a settlement with USA Gymnastics. In response to Maroney’s decision to file a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, the USOC and MSU, USA Gymnastics said in December, “Although USA Gymnastics is disappointed by today’s filing, we applaud McKayla and others who speak up against abusive behavior — including the despicable acts of Larry Nassar. We want to work together with McKayla and others to help encourage and empower athletes to speak up against abuse.”

Nichols says MSU “ignored complaints against Larry Nassar…going back 20 years” and that if MSU had alerted USA Gymnastics to their investigation of Nassar, “I might never have met Larry Nassar and I would never have been abused by him.”

MSU’s leaders have previously apologized to Nassar’s victims, and praised their courage in coming forward.

In December, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges, and pleaded guilty to 10 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with young girls, including one who was under age 13, in Michigan state courts. He is expected to be sentenced for his state crimes in mid to late January.

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