Olympic medal-winning gymnast McKayla Maroney is known as much for the meme she inspired as she is for the medals she won. But, now Maroney is in the news for a very different reason.
Recently, Maroney went public with allegations that a former USA Gymnastics team doctor abused her throughout her career on the team. The Olympian said the molestation began when she was in her early teens and continued for the rest of her Olympic career.
Dr. Larry Nassar is Accused
These allegations were released on Maroney’s Twitter account last week, describing years of abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, a physician who worked with Olympic athletes for 30 years. Nassar, as it happens, is already in jail in Michigan, locked up after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.
Aside from that case, Nassar has been accused of criminal sexual misconduct by more than 125 different women. He had pleaded not guilty to those charges, resulting in a flurry of corresponding civil suits.
Maroney alleges the abuse began shortly after she began attending US National team training camp in Houston, Texas. She was 13 at the time and believed Nassar when she says, he told her the “treatment” he was administering was medically necessary. The gymnast did not detail the “treatment” in her allegations, though she did say Nassar continued these “treatments” for the balance of her career.
Neither Nassar nor his legal representation has responded to these allegations. But Maroney said she was speaking up after being inspired by the #MeToo movement on social media: “This is happening everywhere… 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.”
Other Gymnasts Come Forward
Maroney is not the only gymnast to accuse Nassar of improper sexual behavior. Jamie Dantzscher, a medal-winner on the 2000 team, alleged similar behavior back in 2016.
Nassar, regardless of the balance of the lawsuits, looks like he will be held to some account. The real onus, at this point, is on USA Gymnastics to make public, sweeping changes in order to head off a growing wave of public disgust.
The organization, which maintains what tends to be the most popular and central series of events at the Summer Olympics, must make very public overtures to fans as well as the general public, who are all disgusted that Nassar, who is being viewed as a predator, was allowed to prey on athletes for so long.
Some are already comparing Nassar to Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer who has been accused of decades of sexual misconduct as well. USA Gymnastics must do something to break this connection immediately and reassure Americans that athletes wearing their colors are safe and protected.