Champion gymnast in the US Aly Raisman has condemned USA Gymnastics and called former team doctor Larry Nassar “a monster”, after the sport has been gripped by allegations that Nassar sexually assaulted girls in his care.
Nassar pleaded guilty last month to the possession of child pornography and is also awaiting trial on separate sexual misconduct charges. As well as this, he’s being sued by more than 125 women claiming he sexually assaulted them under the guise of delivering treatment.
Though the six-time Olympic medallist did not speak of her own experience with Nassar, Raisman accused him of being “a monster” and criticised USA Gymnastics for trying to “sweep it under the rug” in an interview on Saturday, Associated Press reports.
Olympic champion Aly Raisman attacks USA Gymnastics over sexual abuse case https://t.co/ZnGaIHxvsJ
— Guardian news (@guardiannews) August 20, 2017
The 23-year-old, who captained the ‘Final Five’ team that won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics and also the victorious ‘Fierce Five’ team at the 2012 Olympics, is the highest profile athlete to speak out against Nassar so far.
“What people don’t realise is that this doctor was a doctor for 29 years,” Raisman said. “Whether or not he did it to a gymnast, they still knew him.”
“Even if he didn’t do it to you, it’s still the trauma and the anxiety of wondering what could have happened. I think that needs to be addressed. These girls, they should be comfortable going to USA Gymnastics and saying: ‘I need help, I want therapy. I need this.'”
Recent reporting by the Indianapolis Star uncovered the way USA Gymnastics mishandled abuse allegations against coaches and staff across the country – a problem that reportedly spanned more than 3,500 clubs and several decades.
In discussing USA Gymnastics’ involvement in the issue, Raisman criticised the organisation for granting former president Steve Penny a reported $1 million severance package. She said more should have been done with that money.
“I thought, ‘Wow, why couldn’t they create a program?'” Raisman said. “A million dollars is a lot of money. They could do a lot of things to create change. They could create a program. They could even contact all the families that have come forward and say ‘Can we help your kid with therapy?'”
Would you ban men from looking after your kids? Post continues below.
USA Gymnastics issued a statement late on Saturday saying the organisation is “appalled” by the accusations against Nassar, Associated Press reports. “We are tackling this issue head-on, and we want to work with Aly and all interested athletes to keep athletes safe,” the statement read.
Still, they’re missing the point.
“Everyone is important,” Raisman said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the Olympic champion or you’re an eight-year-old that goes to gymnastics in Ohio, or wherever you are in the US. Every single kid is important and I want USA Gymnastics to do a better job with that.”