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Maggie Nichols, 'Athlete A', Steps Forward to Confirm Nassar Abuse
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Former U.S. national team member Maggie Nichols has come forward to confirm she was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar.

Former U.S. national team member Maggie Nichols has come forward to confirm she was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar. Nichols has joined McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas in accusing Nassar of sexual assault, and she cited the three Olympians in her decision to go public.

Nichols states that she and her coach were the first to file a complaint against Nassar with USA Gymnastics, informing former CEO Steve Penny in the summer of 2015. Nichols has been identified as "Athlete A" in legal documents.

"Up until now, I was identified as Athlete A by USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University," Nichols said. "I want everyone to know that he did not do this to Athlete A, he did it to Maggie Nichols."

Nichols, 20, is among more than 130 women who have filed civil suits against Nassar, USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and/or the United States Olympic Committee. In November, Nassar, a former osteopathic physician, admitted sexually assaulting young girls under the guise of treatment, after previously insisting he was performing a legitimate medical procedure for back and hip injuries. He has been in prison since December 2016.

Even though Nichols' coach, Sarah Jantzi of Twin City Twisters, reportedly informed USA Gymnastics about Nassar in the summer of 2015, it was not until September 12, 2016, when 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher and former club gymnast Rachael Denhollander came forward with the first public accusations, that Nassar was removed from practice. Nassar was fired from MSU on September 20 and stripped of his medical license in April 2017.


Maggie Nichols with her coach, Sarah Jantzi, at an international meet held in 2013 in Chemnitz, Germany.

According to lawsuits against USA Gymnastics, Penny did not contact the FBI until five weeks after being notified of the allegations against Nassar. Nassar, who had announced in 2014 that he planned to step down from his role after the 2016 Olympics, quietly left USA Gymnastics in 2015 but continued to practice in Michigan, both at Michigan State University in East Lansing and at the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Lansing.

USA Gymnastics ignored demands for Penny and members of its board to step down. After the U.S. Olympic Committee executive board announced it would formally recommend Penny leave the federation, he resigned in March. He reportedly received $1 million severance package as part of his departure. Procter & Gamble, Kellogg's, Hershey's and Under Armour all abandoned their sponsorship of USA Gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics has denied liability for Nassar's assaults, including lawsuits filed concerning abuse suffered after Nassar left in 2015. According to documents filed by a USA Gymnastics attorney in Michigan on December 7, "USAG had no duty to inform MSU, Twistars or others of the reported concerns about Nassar."

MSU has set aside $10 million to provide counseling for the victims, but has denied it covered up Nassar's abuse, despite allegations its employees were informed as far back as 1997. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who led the prosecution of Nassar on state charges, is currently considering a full investigation into the university. MSU President Lou Anna Simon has resisted public pressure to step down over the university's handling of the case.

Nichols was a member of the first-place American team at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, where she also won a bronze medal on floor exercise. She suffered a torn meniscus in early 2016, but despite making a strong comeback in time for the U.S. Olympic Trials, was not named to the U.S. Olympic team. She is now a sophomore for the University of Oklahoma gymnastics team, which won the NCAA Championships last spring. A fan favorite, she is nicknamed "Swaggie Maggie" for her style.

The Little Canada, Minnesota native released a statement on Tuesday through her attorney, John Manly, who is also representing Dantzscher, Maroney and others.

In December, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography. Next week he is scheduled to be sentenced in Ingham County, Michigan, for sexual assault charges, which he pleaded guilty to in November as part of a plea agreement with the attorney general. The judge has set aside four days for victims to share impact statements.

Statement from Maggie Nichols

January 9, 2018

"Recently, three of my friends and former National Team members who medaled at the 2012 Olympics have bravely stepped forward to proclaim they were sexually assaulted by USA Gymnastics Team Physician Dr. Larry Nassar.

Today I join them.

I am making the decision to tell my traumatic story and hope to join the forces with my friends and teammates to bring about true change.

Up until now, I was identified as Athlete A by USA gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University. I want everyone to know that he did not do this to Athlete A, he did it to Maggie Nichols.

In the summer of 2015, my coach and I reported this abuse to USA Gymnastics leadership.

I want everyone to know that he did not do this to Athlete A, he did it to Maggie Nichols.

I first started Gymnastics when I was three and since I was a child, I always had the dream of competing for my country in the Olympic Games. I made elite level gymnastics when I was 13. By the time I was 14, I made the USA National Team. I traveled internationally for 4 years attending competitions and in 2015 competed at the World Championships representing our country.

People who watch gymnastics see young girls fly through the air and do all kinds of amazing things. You can imagine that having a good doctor is absolutely necessary to compete at the highest level. Dr. Larry Nassar was regarded throughout the sport as the very best by coaches and staff throughout the gymnastics community. He was a doctor at Michigan State University and the Olympic and Team USA doctor assigned to us by USA Gymnastics at the Olympic Training Center at the Karolyi Ranch. He was supposed to care for us and treat our injuries. The first time I met Dr. Nassar I was about 13 or 14 years old and receiving treatment for an elbow injury. At the time it seemed like he knew exactly what therapy was necessary for me to recover. Initially, he did nothing unusual.

But when I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch. This is when the changes in his medical treatments occurred.

My back was really hurting me, I couldn't even really bend down, and I remember he took me into the training room, closed the door and closed the blinds. At the time I thought this was kind of weird but figured it must be okay. I thought he probably didn't want to distract the other girls and I trusted him.

I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn't think he should. He didn't have gloves on and he didn't tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.

He did this "treatment" on me, on numerous occasions.

Not only was Larry Nassar my doctor, I thought he was my friend. He contacted me on Facebook complimenting me and telling me how beautiful I looked on numerous occasions. But I was only 15 and I just thought he was trying to be nice to me. Now I believe this was part of the grooming process I recently learned about.

One day at practice, I was talking to my teammate, and brought up Dr. Nassar and his treatments. When I was talking to her, my coach overheard. I had never told my coach about these treatments. After hearing our conversation she asked me more questions about it and said it doesn't seem right. I showed her the Facebook messages and told her about what Nassar was doing. My coach thought it was wrong, so she did the right thing and reported this abuse to the USA Gymnastics staff.

USA Gymnastics and the USOC did not provide a safe environment for me and my teammates to train. We were subjected to Dr. Nassar at every National Team Camp which occurred monthly at the Karolyi Ranch. His job was to care for our health and treat our injuries. Instead, he violated our innocence.

I later found out that Michigan State University had ignored complaints against Larry Nassar from other girls going back 20 years and had investigated him for sexual assault in 2014. They never told USA Gymnastics. If they had, I might never have met Larry Nassar and I would never have been abused by him.

I have come to the realization that my voice can have influence over the manner in which our USA athletes are treated.

Throughout everything that has happened, my faith in God has sustained me. I would like to let everyone know that I am doing OK. My strong faith has helped me endure. It is a work in progress. I will strive to ensure the safety of young athletes who have big dreams just like mine and I will encourage them to stand up and speak if something doesn't seem right.

I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart that has helped me through this difficult time. My parents, coaches, and friends who have known about it, and that have stood by my side through it all. I would not have been able to be so strong without each of you."

Comments (2)add comment

Casie said:

0
...
wow, good for her coach to be aware. I hate this for all of the athletes, but it's insanely refreshing to know the people who were there to support her really did. They asked the appropriate questions which is wonderful #decertifyusagymnastics
 
January 09, 2018
Votes: +2

Siobhan Stevesnson said:

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Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Thank you Maggie Nichols for taking this courageous step and putting a face and a name to Athlete A. Beyond USA Gymnastics, you have also made a contribution to the larger history changing movement: #metoo. You are more than amazing gymnast, you are an inspiration to all girls and women inside sport and out.
 
January 10, 2018
Votes: +0

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