Larry Nassar, U.S. team physician, has been accused by more than 30 people of sexual abuse.
A former elite gymnast and member of the women’s U.S. National Team for five years (2006-11) filed an explosive civil claim in Los Angeles County Superior Court Thursday, claiming she was sexually abused by a former USA Gymnastics team physician, and that numerous USA Gymnastics officials and team coordinators turned a blind eye to the abuse and allowed it to continue “without abatement.”
Among the defendants named in the suit are the physician, Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics and husband and wife and long-time coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi, the Romanian defectors whose careers stretch back to when Bela trained Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Nadia Comaneci, a star of the 1976 Olympics.
The plaintiff, named in the suit as Jane LM Doe, alleges that she was sexually abused by Nassar, who has already been named in another civil claim filed in California Superior Court last month. According to an Indy Star report, more than 30 people have come forward claiming they were sexually abused by Nassar.
Jane LM Doe claims in the suit that “through this position of trust and confidence, the Perpetrator (NASSAR) exploited Jane LM Doe, in perpetrating his sexual abuse, molestation and harassment upon Jane LM Doe."
“All of the sexually abusive and harassing conduct alleged herein was done for the Perpetrator’s (NASSAR) sexual gratification and was based upon the gender of JANE LM DOE,” reads the complaint.
Doe claims the abuse by Nassar – who Doe says was accepted onto the staff of USA Gymnastics in 1986 — occurred “over a period of several years.”
The Karolyis – Bela also coached U.S. Olympian Mary Lou Retton – operated a training facility in Huntsville, Texas, according to the complaint, and it was at this facility where Doe says she and other “minor children” training to be gymnasts came into contact with Nassar. Doe, who was born in 1992, claims that the Karolyis and other defendants allowed Nassar to remain in a “position of authority and trust” after defendants “knew or should have known that he was a molester of children.”
Doe accuses Nassar of sexual assault, sexual battery, gender violence and sexual harassment.
"As we have made clear, when USA Gymnastics first learned of athlete concerns regarding Dr. Nassar, we dismissed him from further involvement and reported those concerns to the FBI," USA Gymnastics said in a statement, according to the Indy Star. "Still, the allegations that have been made are troubling. USA Gymnastics is committed to promoting a safe environment for our athletes. Due to the pending litigation and ongoing investigation, however, we are unable to comment further.”
California attorney John Manly, who represents Doe, told the Daily News Thursday that the Karolyis fostered a "toxic environment" for young children "where secrets had to be kept" that enabled the abuse.
“USA Gymnastics and the Karolyis were entrusted with precious girls and young women who had dreams of Olympic gold for themselves and for their country. People really don’t understand the sacrifices these children made. They sacrificed their childhood and adolescence, and when somebody does that, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and they got neither,” Manly told The News. “These children were isolated from their parents, and the Karolyis had complete control. It was the Karolyis and their coaches and these children. In that environment, Dr. Nassar molested them. There was a toxic environment at that (training site) where secrets had to be kept, and when you have that, this kind of abuse can occur, and it is inexcusable. The priority was not the well-being of these kids. The priority was winning at all costs, even if meant sacrificing the emotional and physical well-being of the young women and girls. That’s against the law, and it’s fundamentally un-American. We can win without degrading the athletes that compete.”
The plaintiff Doe also claims that the Karolyis created a wretched environment for young gymnasts training under them, which included the husband and wife “striking minor child gymnasts, scratching minor child gymnasts until they bled, encouraging parents of the minor child gymnasts to hit their children, depriving minor child gymnasts of food, depriving minor child gymnasts of water, actively searching the minors’ rooms to find and confiscate hidden food, screaming obscenities at these minor child gymnasts, cutting off communication of minor gymnasts with their parents, telling minor child gymnasts that they were fat, requiring gymnasts to train when they were ill, and requiring minor child gymnasts to have their physical appearance be judged in front of their peers.”
The plaintiff is seeking a trial by jury and undetermined damages.