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Two gymnasts allege sex abuse by doctor for USA Gymnastics

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two gymnasts, including a member of the 2000 U.S. women’s Olympic team, say they were sexually abused by a former longtime doctor for USA Gymnastics, court documents and interviews show.

Dr. Larry Nassar, 53, who worked for decades for the gymnastics organization until his dismissal last year, sexually groped and fondled the teenage Olympian under the guise of physical therapy during her elite career, according to a lawsuit filed last week in California.

The Olympian is identified as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit against Nassar and the USA Gymnastics organization. Her attorneys on Monday identified her only as a medal-winning member of the team that competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The second gymnast, Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Kentucky, told the Indianapolis Star that Nassar sexually abused her in 2000 while she underwent treatment for lower back pain at Michigan State University, where Nassar is a faculty member.

Denhollander, who was 15 at the time, told the Star that Nassar became gradually more abusive over the course of five treatments, including massaging her breasts and penetrating her. She said she filed a complaint last month with university police.

Denhollander said her mother was at the therapy sessions, but that Nassar positioned himself in such a way that she couldn’t see what was happening.

“I was terrified,” Denhollander said. “I was ashamed. I was very embarrassed. And I was very confused, trying to reconcile what was happening with the person he was supposed to be. He’s this famous doctor. He’s trusted by my friends. He’s trusted by these other gymnasts. How could he reach this position in the medical profession, how could he reach this kind of prominence and stature if this is who he is?”

Nassar’s attorney, Matthew Borgula, said in an email to The Associated Press that Nassar plans to “vigorously defend himself.”

“Dr. Nassar denies any misconduct relating to any gymnast, patient or anyone else,” Borgula wrote. “To the extent he provided medical treatment to anyone, that treatment was always done with consent of the patient. He is proud of his 29 years of volunteer service with USA Gymnastics.”

The California lawsuit says that USA Gymnastics negligently suppressed, concealed or failed to disclose knowledge that Nassar had engaged in sexual conduct with team members.

“Our client represents the very best America has to offer,” John Manly and Vince Finaldi, the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement. “She sacrificed her youth and adolescence, spending thousands of hours in rigorous and often painful training to bring glory to our nation as an Olympic athlete. She had an absolute right to trust USA Gymnastics, its coaches and staff. Unfortunately, they have proven time and again that they are more interested in protecting the reputation of their multi-million-dollar enterprise than the child athletes who are entrusted to their care.”

The lawsuit does not provide specific instances where USA Gymnastics knowingly withheld information.

USA Gymnastics released a statement Monday night indicating that Nassar was relieved of his position in the summer of 2015 when the organization’s President Steve Penny went to authorities when learning of athlete concerns about Nassar.

“USA Gymnastics has cooperated fully with the law enforcement agency since we first notified them of the matter, including — at their request — refraining from making further statements or taking any other action that might interfere with the agency’s investigation,” the statement read. “We are grateful to the athletes for coming forward to share their concerns when they did.”

Nassar has also been temporarily relieved of clinical and patient duties with Michigan State, where he is an associate professor in the sports medicine program, pending the police investigation into the criminal complaint, according to school spokesman Kent Cassella.

University police did not immediately respond to phone and email messages left by The AP.

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Chinese lead, star pairs struggle in world championships short program

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong recorded the highest pairs short program score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, topping the world championships field in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Two-time defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are well behind in seventh and 13th place, respectively.

Sui and Han, in just their second event this season, tallied a personal-best 81.23 points.

They lead by 1.39 over Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot going into the free skate Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in third.

The Chinese will go for their first world title after giving up a short-program lead last year and taking silver for a second straight time.

Full worlds short program results are here.

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Sui and Han missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Duhamel and Radford, looking to become the first pair to three-peat in 40 years, came in slowed by Radford’s hip injury suffered in the last week. Radford was off-balance on his triple toe loop landing Wednesday. Duhamel’s hand touched the ice on her throw triple Lutz landing.

They scored 72.67 points, which is 8.56 behind Sui and Han.

Stolbova and Klimov both suffered falls in their short program and scored 65.59, qualifying for the 16-pair free skate by four points. The Russian champions missed the autumn season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury.

The top U.S. pair was Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, who posted a personal-best 72.17 points for eighth place. The husband-and-wife pair are competing for the second time this season after Scimeca Knierim’s serious abdominal injury.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier suffered two falls and placed 20th, matching the worst U.S. pairs finish in worlds history. They did not qualify for the 16-pair free skate.

Therefore, the Knierims must finish 10th or better after the free skate to ensure the U.S. earns two pairs places at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. medal in pairs at worlds came in 2002. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

North Korean pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik placed 14th in the short program, the highest of any pair expected to compete for one of four final Olympic quota spots in September.

North Korea sent no athletes to the Sochi Olympics, and it’s not a guarantee it will qualify any athletes for PyeongChang, or if it will send athletes to South Korea in February. But Ryom and Kim’s personal best by nearly 11 points on Wednesday was very encouraging.

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MORE: U.S. pairs skater back from life-threatening condition

Pairs Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 81.23
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 79.84
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 79.37
8. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 72.17
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Missy Franklin out due to shoulder surgeries

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Missy Franklin is sidelined from swimming competition for an undisclosed period of time to recover from surgeries on both of her shoulders due to bursitis, according to her social media.

“This is what’s best for me to come stronger than ever,” was posted on Franklin’s Instagram. “I’m so far from being done with this sport.”

The five-time Olympic champion was diagnosed in early January following an MRI, underwent surgeries that month and has returned to limited training.

Franklin, who has not raced since the Rio Olympics, will not compete in the next USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in two weeks.

Her return date is not set.

The U.S. Championships are in June in Indianapolis and serve as a qualifying meet for the world championships in Budapest in July.

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