USA Gymnastics Helped Larry Nassar Keep His Abuse Investigation Under Wraps, New Emails Reveal
A new investigative report from The Indianapolis Star shows just how USA Gymnastics helped cover allegations of sexual abuse against a disgraced former team doctor. USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar concocted cover stories to hide the fact he was under investigation for child sexual abuse from parents and gymnasts, the newspaper reported Thursday.
The Indianapolis Star obtained a series of emails between Nassar and a USA Gymnastics attorney that showed the sport's governing body worked with the disgraced doctor to hammer out exactly how to explain his absence at two team events in 2015.
In one email, attorney Scott D. Himsel tells Nassar that USA Gymnastics will say he's unable to attend a team event due to "personal reasons."
"Can we just say that I am sick?" Nassar is quoted by The Indianapolis Star as saying in a follow-up email. "That would make more sense to everyone. Would that be ok?" USA Gymnastics agreed.
In reality, Himsel had told Nassar he'd come under investigation following complaints and concerns about his medical techniques — which judges later ruled were a means of disguising his sexual abuse of patients — and that it would be "in everyone's best interest" if he skipped the event.
In a second set of emails, USA Gymnastics officials agreed to explain away Nassar's absence at another major event by telling people it was the doctor's private practice that kept him away, The Indianapolis Star reported. In those emails, Himsel again suggested USA Gymnastics could use "personal reasons" as the excuse for Nassar's absence. "Unless you prefer a different approach that we are prepared to discuss," the attorney wrote.
"If I am not going to be at Championships, then it is due to financial reasons with my clinical practice, which is an accurate statement," Nassar is quoted as saying in his response.
USA Gymnastics did not immediately respond to Bustle's request for comment. According to The Indianapolis Star, the organization is currently facing at least 10 lawsuits related to the former Team USA Gymnastics physician. Many of those lawsuits have been brought forth by Nassar's accusers and allege USA Gymnastics of fraud, negligence, failure to protect athletes, and causing emotional distress.
Many abuse survivors and their supporters have argued Nassar is not the only person who should be held accountable for the abuse he inflicted on a number of young women. In fact, a number of Nassar's accusers have also accused both the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics of turning a blind eye to and enabling Nassar's abuse.
The New York Times previously reported that in the time it took for the FBI to investigate sexual abuse allegations against Nassar, he allegedly molested at least 40 more athletes. What's more, The Times reported Nassar allegedly molested some of the youngest athletes in the 14 months between the FBI opening its investigation in July 2015 and when The Indianapolis Star published its own report on Nassar in September 2016.
Since then, hundreds of women and girls have come forward to accuse Nassar of sexually abusing them, including former Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Jordyn Wieber.
Nassar has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and a total of 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison on the federal child pornography charges and to another sentence of between 40 and 175 years on seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct. For the other three counts, a judge sentenced him to 40 to 125 years behind bars. In the end, more than 300 accusers, spanning decades, said Nassar sexually abused them.