Gymnast Aly Raisman suing U.S. Olympic Committee over Nassar abuse scandal
U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman has sued the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics over former USA Gymnastics’ team doctor Larry Nassar‘s sexual abuse, saying they knew or should have known about his behavior but put “money and medals” before athletes’ safety.
“I refuse to wait any longer for these organizations to do the right thing. It is my hope that the legal process will hold them accountable and enable the change that is so desperately needed,” the three-time Olympic gold medalist said in a statement on Friday.
Raisman’s lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed on Wednesday in California state court in Santa Clara County.
WATCH: ‘Powerful army of survivors’: Aly Raisman and other abuse survivors speak at Larry Nassar sentencing
Raisman, 23, said in November she was sexually abused by Nassar. She was among nearly 200 gymnasts, including several Olympic medalists, who gripped the country with testimony about decades of abuse, speaking out during Nassar’s televised sentencing hearings.
Nassar pleaded guilty last year to molesting female athletes under the guise of medical treatment for nearly 20 years, and in January and February was given two prison sentences in Michigan of 40 to 125 years, and 40 to 175 years. He is also serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions.
Raisman still suffers from “depression, anxiety and fear” stemming from her abuse, her lawsuit said. Despite having the authority and mandate to discipline Nassar, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics or former top USA Gymnastics executives, also named as defendants, never intervened, the suit added.
The molestations could have been prevented if the defendants had been serious about their duty to protect young athletes, but “(they) instead put their quest for money and medals above the safety” of the plaintiff and other athletes, the lawsuit said.
The USOC and a representative for Raisman did not immediately return requests for comment. USA Gymnastics, the sport’s U.S. governing body, had no immediate comment.
The Nassar scandal prompted the entire board of directors at USA Gymnastics to resign, along with the president and athletic director at Michigan State University, where Nassar also worked. It also spawned several lawsuits and criminal and civil investigations.
Raisman’s lawsuit was the latest in a string of civil complaints filed by Irvine, California, attorney John Manly on behalf of former Olympic gymnasts and national gymnastics team members concerning the Nassar abuse.
Manly also filed a suit against the USOC and other defendants in December on behalf of McKayla Maroney, a 2012 Olympic gymnastics gold and silver medalist.
‘DELUSIONAL’ ABOUT CHANGE
The USOC, which has faced months of sustained criticism over the sex abuse scandal, said on Wednesday its chief executive officer, Scott Blackmun, was resigning for medical reasons. It cited Blackmun’s “ongoing health issues” related to prostate cancer, for which he has been receiving treatment.
It also outlined new reforms aimed at protecting its athletes from abuse, including increasing funding for support and counseling for victims as well as investigations into abuse allegations.
The USOC statement did not address whether the sex abuse scandal played a role in Blackmun’s departure.
In her statement on Friday, Raisman said the sporting organizations were still “unwilling to conduct a full investigation, and without a solid understanding of how this happened, it is delusional to think sufficient changes can be implemented.”
Last month, USOC Board of Directors Chairman Larry Probst said the U.S. Olympic system had “failed” the hundreds of young female athletes who were sexually abused by Nassar.
During the sentencing hearings, gymnasts described their ordeal while being treated by Nassar, who was known as the go-to doctor for Olympic gymnasts. He disguised his digital penetration of victims as “intravaginal adjustment,” a legitimate treatment sometimes used to relieve pain.
Attorney David Mittleman, who represents 90 of the 256 plaintiffs already suing USA Gymnastics in federal court in Michigan, said on Friday, “We haven’t yet decided whether to broaden our suit to include the U.S. Olympic Committee or possibly the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association).” This referred to Nassar’s connection with Michigan State.
Mittleman says the 90 athletes he represents is the second largest group. The one represented by Raisman’s attorney, Manly, is the largest.
— Reporting by Gina Cherelus, Peter Szekely, Jonathan Stempel and Barbara Goldberg in New York Writing by Frances Kerry Editing by Franklin Paul, Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe
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