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Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor ordered to stand trial on sexual assault charges

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MASON, Mich. (AP) — A sports doctor who treated female gymnasts at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics was ordered to stand trial Friday after a woman described how he sexually abused her for years during her childhood.

Judge Donald Allen Jr. found there was enough evidence to warrant a trial for Dr. Larry Nassar on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Separately, dozens of women and girls — many of them gymnasts — have come forward and accused Nassar of molesting them when they went to him for treatment as far back as the 1990s. He is also facing federal child porn charges.

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WHO IS NASSAR?

Nassar, 53, received a medical degree from Michigan State in 1993 and returned to teach and become doctor for the women’s gymnastics team. More than 80 percent of his patients were gymnasts, dancers and cheerleaders, including many who didn’t go to MSU.

He also was a doctor for nearly 30 years with Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He attended team camps and meets all over the world. Nassar quit in 2015 after an internal investigation related to a female athlete’s concerns about him.

The organization went to federal authorities a month after the investigation began, not immediately as it had previously stated. The timeline was changed after a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Nassar hasn’t commented directly, but his lawyers have denied the allegations against him.

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WHAT ARE THE CRIMINAL CASES?

Nassar faces charges in two cases so far, although they’re not related to his work with athletes.

The 25-year-old woman who testified Friday said her parents were friends with Nassar and that he repeatedly abused her from age 6 until age 12 during family visits to his home in Holt, near Lansing. She said he rubbed his genitals on her and digitally penetrated her, among other things. She said Nassar later denied it.

“My parents chose to believe him over me,” she told the judge.

The woman talked to police last year after seeing a newspaper report of similar allegations against Nassar. Police are investigating more abuse complaints. There is no statute of limitations in Michigan for certain sex crimes committed after 2001.

In federal court, Nassar is charged with possessing thousands of images of child pornography and trying to destroy possible evidence.

“Either you’ve got it or you don’t. It’s very difficult to fight and the penalties are severe,” former federal prosecutor John Smietanka said of child porn charges.

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WHAT IS HAPPENING AT MICHIGAN STATE?

Nassar, who had a campus clinic, was fired in September. Women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages suddenly quit Wednesday, a day after she was suspended for defending Nassar during a team meeting months ago.

In lawsuits against the doctor, at least two women said Klages downplayed their complaints about him when they were part of a gymnastics youth group at MSU in the late 1990s. An attorney for the coach said Klages would never put athletes in “harm’s way.”

MSU said it had received only two formal complaints about Nassar, including one in 2014; no charges were filed then. A second complaint last summer led to a broader police investigation, which is ongoing. President Lou Anna Simon recently called Nassar’s behavior “criminal and repugnant.”

“If anybody thinks this stops at the gymnastics coach, they’re smoking some pretty good dope,” said John Manly, an attorney for more than 40 women or girls who are suing Nassar or are planning to do so. “Sexual abuse of this magnitude doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”

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WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE LAWSUITS?

More females who say they’re victims have been added to lawsuits each week. The largest case is in federal court in western Michigan, and it names Nassar, MSU and USA Gymnastics as defendants.

USA Gymnastics won’t comment on specific allegations, but it says it’s “appalling that anyone would exploit a young athlete or child in this manner.” The lawsuits accuse MSU of failing to do more to prevent assaults.

The school also won’t address specific allegations. There is an ongoing internal review of all aspects of Nassar’s work.

U.S. skier Laurenne Ross out months with knee injury

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Laurenne Ross, the second-best U.S. speed racer behind Lindsey Vonn the last two years, suffered a right knee injury in a U.S. Championships crash on Monday and won’t be able to ski for at least two months, according to her social media.

“Further analysis is required to figure out exactly what is wrong, but I will not be skiing for at least the next couple months,” was posted on Ross’ Instagram. “I will keep you all updated when the time comes.”

Ross, 28, had a promising season, with seven World Cup top-10 finishes. She was fifth in the world championships downhill and fourth in the Olympic test event downhill in South Korea.

Ross has come back from injury before — a fractured pelvis in December 2006, a torn left ACL in 2008, at least five left shoulder dislocations and multiple broken fingers.

She made her first Olympic team in Sochi, where she was 11th in the downhill.

“I had many ups and downs, but am so thankful to have made it this far in my career with all the love and support that surrounds me,” was posted on Ross’ Instagram. “I will tack this on to my list of injuries, move on, and come back stronger.”

Ross is the second U.S. speed racer to suffer major injury in a crash this month. Breezy Johnson suffered a tibial plateau fracture in her left leg in the World Cup Finals downhill.

Ross, Vonn and Johnson, plus four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso and World Cup podium finishers Stacey Cook and Jacqueline Wiles will likely all be vying for Olympic downhill places next season. Mikaela Shiffrin could try, too.

A nation can enter no more than four women per race at the Olympics.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin eyes speed events in 2018

After a fun and wonderful season I am so sad to announce that yesterday, at US Nationals, I sustained an injury to my right knee. Further analysis is required to figure out exactly what is wrong, but I will not be skiing for at least the next couple months. I will keep you all updated when the time comes. I crossed so many finish lines this year — some with a smile and some without — but as I look back I can breathe deeply, because I have no regrets. It was a season for learning, for friendship, and for ambition. I had many ups and downs, but am so thankful to have made it this far in my career with all the love and support that surrounds me. I will tack this on to my list of injuries, move on, and come back stronger. I can't wait to step up to the challenges that lay ahead of me, and I couldn't do it without all of your support. Thank-you so much for being there, through thick and through thin, through the wins, the losses, the injuries, and the joy 🙏 I will be back 👊

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U.S. gymnasts give emotional testimony about sexual abuse

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Retired star gymnasts testified before Congress on Tuesday that they were sexually abused by USA Gymnastics officials.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, and three-time national champion rhythmic gymnast Jessica Howard recounted their experiences before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“USA Gymnastics failed its most basic responsibility to protect the athletes under its care,” Dantzscher said through tears.

Dominique Moceanu, a 1996 gold medalist, described a “culture of fear, intimidation and humiliation, established by Bela and Martha Karolyi,” the legendary coaches who are named in a civil lawsuit for physical abuse.

U.S. Olympic Committee official Rick Adams and Stafford County (Va.) Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen also testified. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee chairman, criticized USA Gymnastics for declining to testify.

The hearing concerns a bill that could reshape sex-abuse reporting guidelines in Olympic sports. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is co-sponsoring a bill that calls on organizations overseeing Olympic sports to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to law enforcement or child-welfare authorities.

The bill and proposed changes to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act come in the aftermath of the sex abuse scandal that led to the resignation of USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny.

Dantzscher and Howard told the committee of their abuses by Dr. Larry Nassar, who is in prison in Michigan and faces charges in the state and federal systems.

“They failed to take action against coaches, trainers and other adults who abused children,” Dantzscher said. “And they allowed Dr. Nassar to abuse young women and girls for more than 20 years.”

Howard said, “It has become glaringly obvious that USA Gymnastics has not done nearly enough to protect athletes from any form of abuse.”

Moceanu, now an advocate, spoke about her emotional and verbal abuse during her time with USA Gymnastics. She said there is an “urgent need” to change the culture of the organization.

Feinstein, who has been critical of USA Gymnastics’ handling of the sex-abuse scandal, said she met two months ago with former gymnasts who were abused as teenagers and carried the trauma with them as adults. Dantzscher and Howard said they didn’t realize until last year that Nassar had abused them.

As part of the proposed legislation, governing bodies under the USOC umbrella would be required to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement and train employees on how to handle situations. The statute of limitations for victims to sue their abusers would also be extended.

“Young athletes should not have to fear victimization from coaches doctors and other officials,” Feinstein said at a news conference after the hearing.

Retired gymnast Jeanette Antolin also said at the news conference she was sexually abused by her first coach and praised the proposed legislation, saying “for so long we felt like we had no voice.”

Mattie Larson, a 2010 World Championships team member, also attended the news conference but did not speak.

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MORE: John Orozco retires, reflects on gymnastics career