Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman is calling for an overhaul in the USA Gymnastics organization.
In an interview with the Associated Press following the induction of the famed 2016 Olympics “Final Five” team into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Raisman called for the organization to denounce sexual assault and take better preventive measures to keep athletes safe.
“I feel like there’s a lot of articles about it, but nobody has said, ‘This is horrible, this is what we’re doing to change,’ ” the 23-year-old said.
Raisman’s comments come in response to the massive fallout from the sexual abuse allegations made against USA Gymnastics physician, Larry Nassar. In addition to those allegations, Nasar, 53, also pleaded guilty on July 11 to three child pornography charges in federal court, ABC News reported. In exchange for Nassar’s guilty plea, U.S. prosecutors, have agreed not to pursue charges in two additional incidents of alleged sexual crimes with minors.
The six-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast said that she often saw Nassar at the team’s training facility in Texas, as well as in meets around the globe. While she did not talk directly about any encounters with him, she called him “a monster” and said that the USA Gymnastics was trying to “sweep” the scandal “under the rug.”
Former club gymnast Rachael Denhollander joined the number of women who spoke out against the doctor, telling PEOPLE in March that Nassar allegedly molested her for 30 minutes at a time in 2000 while her mother was in the room.
“He would position himself in between my mom and I, so I could not see where his hands were,” Denhollander said. “That was the dynamic that kept me quiet because I didn’t realize she couldn’t see. The idea that someone could be sexually assaulting me for 30 minutes at a time while holding a conversation with my mother, nobody thinks that’s what assault looks like.”
In May, Denhollander testified against Nassar — who has pleaded not guilty to the assault charges, and also has dozens of civil suits filed in Michigan that are in mediation.
“It felt very uncomfortable, very humiliating and very degrading,” said Denhollander, during the hearing. “But my presumption was this was what I needed to do to get better.
More than 80 women — including 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher— have come forward with other claims of sexual assault.
Raisman— who served with the “Final Five” and the “Fierce Five” Olympic teams — said she was waiting for the organization that oversaw her award-winning gymnastic teams to speak up about the mistakes made by the organization. She also called the sexual abuse scandal the “elephant in the room,” the AP reported.
After a comprehensive review conducted by former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels, the federation adopted 70 recommendations. The new guidelines require member gyms to go to authorities immediately, with Daniels suggesting USA Gymnastics consider withholding membership from clubs that decline to do so, AP reported. The organization named child welfare advocate, Toby Stark, as their director of SafeSport.
“Aly is one of our most-decorated athletes and has serves as an athlete leader and the captain of two Olympic teams. We welcome her passion on this critical issue. As we have said, we are appalled by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. And, we are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her of his gymnastics career,” USA Gymnastics said in an official statement shared on Twitter on Saturday in response to Raisman’s recent comments.
“We’ve accepted the recommendations made by an expert, former federal prosecutor who carefully examined the organization’s policies. In the course of her review, she spoke to athletes, coaches and other members. We also adopted a safe sport policy and hired a new director of safe sport, who is building an implementation and education plan for our members. We are taking this issue head-on, and we want to work with Aly and all interested athletes to keep athletes safe.”
Daniels has repeatedly said that her review wasn’t designed to judge the past – something that Raisman also expressed disappointment over, pointing to the reported $1 million severance package given to former president Steven Penny after he resigned under pressure in March.
“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?'”
Lynn Raisman, Aly’s mother, said USA Gymnastics needs to “get rid of the people who knew and looked the other way.”