Another elite gymnast has come forward to say she was molested by Larry Nassar, the former longtime doctor for the U.S. national team. Maggie Nichols, a former member of the U.S. national gymnastics team who was a top contender for the 2016 Olympic team, said in a statement released by her attorney Tuesday that she was sexually assaulted by Nassar:
Nichols joins Olympic team members Aly Raisman, Gabrielle Douglas and McKayla Maroney as well as more than 100 other gymnasts and athletes who have accused Nassar of sexual misconduct. The gymnasts report similar experiences in which Nassar touched them inappropriately under the guise of medical treatment.
Nassar’s attorney declined to comment on Nichols’ accusation.
Nichols began competing at a young age, entering junior events in 2011 then progressing to the senior level. In 2015, she earned two world championship medals — a team gold and an individual bronze in the floor exercise.
While she was competing on the national team, she says in her statement, Nassar abused her on “numerous occasions.” As with many of the other elite gymnasts, Nichols’ interaction with Nassar began when she began having health issues, in her case with her back.
It was Nichols who ended up accelerating the inquiry by USA Gymnastics into Nassar that eventually led to his arrest in 2016. In the summer of 2015, Nichols said she was talking to a teammate while at the training camp about whether Nassar’s treatments seemed appropriate. Her coach overheard her conversation and asked Nichols about the treatments she was receiving, which she had never discussed with her coach before. At the same time, Nichols also shared with her coach Facebook interactions she had with Nassar.
“Not only was Larry Nassar my doctor, I thought he was my friend,” Nichols says in her statement. “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.”
Aly Raisman, the reigning Olympic silver medalist and two-time Olympian, reported similar interactions with Nassar in her book Fierce, noting that he made her feel as if he was her only support at the regimented, challenging training camps where the girls spent a week away from their families.
As an unidentified plaintiff, Nichols and her family sued USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), and Michigan State University (MSU), where Nassar was employed from 1997 until he was fired in 2016. Two years before, in 2014, he was allowed to “retire” from USA Gymnastics.
“USA Gymnastics and the USOC did not provide a safe environment for me and my teammates to train,” Nichols said in her statement. “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.”
Nicols retired from elite gymnastics after not making the 2016 Rio Olympic team following an injury. She now competes for the University of Oklahoma. She finished last season as the No. 1 ranked collegiate gymnast in the all-around, beam and floor exercise.
Olympian Maroney said she was paid by USA Gymnastics to remain quiet about her allegations of abuse by Nassar, after she and her family agreed to a settlement with USA Gymnastics. In response to Maroney’s decision to file a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, the USOC and MSU, USA Gymnastics said in December, “Although USA Gymnastics is disappointed by today’s filing, we applaud McKayla and others who speak up against abusive behavior — including the despicable acts of Larry Nassar. We want to work together with McKayla and others to help encourage and empower athletes to speak up against abuse.”
Nichols says MSU “ignored complaints against Larry Nassar…going back 20 years” and that if MSU had alerted USA Gymnastics to their investigation of Nassar, “I might never have met Larry Nassar and I would never have been abused by him.”
MSU’s leaders have previously apologized to Nassar’s victims, and praised their courage in coming forward.
In December, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges, and pleaded guilty to 10 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with young girls, including one who was under age 13, in Michigan state courts. He is expected to be sentenced for his state crimes in mid to late January.