Dominique Moceanu Says USA Gymnastics, Karolyis 'Set the Stage' for 'Atrocities' in Physician Sex Abuse Case

"I have first-hand knowledge of how the culture set the stage for such atrocities to take place," Dominique Moceanu wrote after three former Team USA gymnasts accused Dr. Larry Nassar of sexual abuse

Dominique Moceanu has spoken out in support of the three former Team USA gymnasts who “bravely” came forward in a 60 Minutes piece Sunday evening to accuse former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse — and contends that the “culture” within the organization can “set the stage for such atrocities to take place.”

Moceanu, 35, has long been critical of the sport’s governing body, which she says failed to support her after she came forward with her own allegations of emotional and physical abuse by coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi.

In her statement posted Monday evening, Moceanu again repeated those allegations, which she says makes her have “tremendous admiration” for the three former gymnasts who shared their stories with 60 Minutes: Jamie Dantzscher, Jeannette Antolin and Jessica Howard. The women claim they were abused by Nassar while training at the Karolyi Ranch outside Houston, Texas.

“I have tremendous admiration for the gymnasts who have bravely come forward to share their painful stories. I, personally, was not assaulted by Dr. Nassar. However, after years of suffering other forms of physical and emotional abuse and neglect under the Karolyis, as well as being ostracized and overlooked by USAG when I did speak out, I have first-hand knowledge of how the culture set the stage for such atrocities to take place,” she wrote.

The gold medalist and member of the “Magnificent Seven” team at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta then reiterated her love of the sport, and said it’s critical that systemic changes occur at long last.

“Changes and improvements to the system — including a functioning set of checks and balances — are long overdue. Gymnastics is a beautiful sport, and its young athletes deserve to practice and perform their craft in a safe environment,” she wrote.

Moceanu’s most recent comments come just after Dantzscher, Antolin and Howard told 60 Minutes that Nassar began abusing them as teenagers in the 1990s. All three women claim Nassar inserted ungloved fingers in their vagina or rectum on repeated occasions and for lengthy periods of time, but claimed he was performing medical procedures to improve their health and address medical issues.

“He would put his fingers inside of me and move my leg around,” Dantzscher, who won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics, told 60 Minutes. “He would tell me I was going to feel a pop. And that that would put my hips back and help my back pain.”

Antolin, who was on the national team from 1995 to 2000 and competed at the 1999 world championships, said: “I remember being uncomfortable because of the area. But in my mind, I was like, ‘If this helps, I’ll do anything.’ It was treatment. You don’t complain about treatment.”


Jessica Howard told 60 Minutes Nassar sexually abused her while she was training at the Karolyi Ranch — which was echoed by the other women.

“He started massaging me. And — he had asked me not to wear any underwear. And then he just continued to go into more and more intimate places … I remember thinking something was off but I didn’t feel like I was able to say anything because he was, you know, this very high-profile doctor. And I was very lucky to be at the ranch working with him.”

John Manly, a California attorney, is suing the Karolyis and the USA Gymnastics on behalf of the three women for failing to protect the athletes, 60 Minutes reported.

“The story here is that no one was watching to protect these girls. And they put medals and money first,” Manly told the news program. “It was an environment of fear. And [Nassar] stepped in and became the good guy.”

Last August, Moceanu spoke critically of the Karolyis to PEOPLE as Martha Karolyi was preparing to take Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and the rest of the “Final Five” to the Rio Olympics. The women’s team won the gold medal, and the Karolyis announced it would be their last Olympic appearance before retirement.

“The methods they used of threats and body shaming and humiliation as a tactic to motivate you to perform better, or calling you names of being fat or overweight were methods of physiological and emotional abuse,” Moceanu told PEOPLE at the time. “That does not create success for athletes.”

She also told PEOPLE last year that many gymnasts are afraid to speak out about abuse because they fear being blacklisted.

“Most of them don’t want to talk about it because so many people are afraid of being shunned,” Moceanu said. “So many people are afraid of having the governing body blacklist them so nobody wants to speak out.”

A lawyer representing the Karolyis provided this statement to PEOPLE on Tuesday: “We are ethically limited to how we can respond due to the pending litigation. However, the Karolyis vehemently deny the allegations made against them – including that they physically abused gymnasts and deprived them of food. The Karolyis did not have any knowledge of any complaint from anyone concerning any athlete’s alleged mistreatment by Dr. Nassar until they learned of his dismissal from USA Gymnastics during the summer of 2015. At the National Training Camp, the Karolyis encouraged the attending athletes to eat well, sleep well, and train with heart. The Karolyis deny the existence of a “toxic” environment. In addition, the Karolyis were never aware that Dr. Nassar would be performing any procedures which are now the subject of the present litigation. Finally, the Karolyis will not offer an opinion on any complaining athlete’s veracity considering the pending litigation.”

Although these three women are the most prominent to accuse Nassar of abuse, they are far from the only ones. Dozens of other gymnasts have made similar accusations, including student athletes at Michigan State University (MSU), where Nassar was a doctor for a number of sports teams. Last Friday, a judge ruled that Nassar will stand trial in Michigan on three sexual-assault charges stemming from incidents at his home in the early 2000s. The alleged victim in that case was the daughter of a family friend. He is also charged with possession of child pornography. He has reportedly pled not guilty and is being held without bail in Michigan. His lawyer told 60 Minutes that his client defends his treatment as legitimate.

Since the 60 Minutes piece aired, USA Gymnastics has released several statements on Twitter, and says they “work every day to help young people fulfill their full potential in a safe environment.”

The organization also released a statement from USA Gymnastics Board of Directors Chairman Paul Parilla, who said “one instance of child abuse is too many.”

The group also shared a message from former Olympic bronze medalist Tasha Schwikert, which said she believes “USA Gymnastics always had my health and well-being top of mind.”

But when Dantzscher, one of the women who came forward on 60 Minutes, appeared on CBS This Morning the following day, she was clear when asked whether USA Gymnastics did enough to protect her.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “They’ve been covering it up for over 30 years.”

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