Former Olympian Says USA Gymnastics Manipulated Her After She Was Assaulted By Larry Nassar
Former Olympic gymnast Tasha Schwikert says she was abused by Larry Nassar and manipulated by USA Gymnastics into signing a supportive statement
A former Olympic gymnasts says she was abused by convicted child molester (and former USA Gymnastics doctor) Larry Nassar and then manipulated into supporting the organization.
Tasha Schwikert, 33, who competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, told ABC News that former USAG president Steve Penny called her in February 2017 — just before three former gymnasts spoke out about Nassar in a headline-making 60 Minutes interview.
“He contacted me at probably one of the most vulnerable times of my life,” Schwikert told ABC. She said that Penny abruptly asked whether Nassar had abused her and Schwikert, who caught off guard, replied, “No.”
However, Schwikert told the publication that Nassar has sexually abused her more than 100 times at the Karolyi Ranch beginning when she was 16 years old.
She said Penny asked her to give him a statement about her “positive experience” with both Nassar and the organization, she told ABC. Although she did not speak well of Nassar, she signed a pre-drafted statement and, soon, the words were shown in a tweet alongside a photo of her performing with a smile.
“I hadn’t even addressed or acknowledged my personal skeletons with Larry,” she told ABC. “I just felt indebted to [Penny]. Basically, because I was so vulnerable, he was able to manipulate me into just signing off on a statement that they drafted for me.”
Penny’s attorney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Schwikert’s statements come just days after Penny was arrested in Tennessee after he was indicted on charges of tampering with evidence in the case against Nassar. Penny resigned last March amid the sexual abuse scandal involving the former U.S. team doctor.
Earlier this year, Nassar was sentenced to more than 175 years in prison for sexually abusing women and girls for decades during his time at Michigan State University and as a USA Gymnastics doctor. Many victims said Nassar inserted ungloved fingers into their vaginas and told them he was simply giving them medical treatment.
Nassar was accused of assaulting more than 150 women and girls — including gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas — while serving as the USA Gymnastics national team doctor.
Many of Nassar’s accusers have criticized USAG for allegedly enabling the child molester. Earlier this year, Raisman filed a lawsuit against USAG and the U.S. Olympic Committee for allowing Nassar to keep his job while sexually abusing athletes.
Earlier this month, the organization’s interim president Mary Bono was forced to resign days after being appointed for posting an anti-Nike tweet about the athletic company’s Colin Kaepernick advertisement. Bono was the second USAG leader to leave after Penny resigned in March 2017.
Kerry Perry, who replaced Penny, also resigned in September over her handling of the Nassar scandal.