Aly Raisman


Aly Raisman files suit against USOC, USA Gymnastics


Aly Raisman spent months urging the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics to get serious about taking a long, hard look into how Larry Nassar‘s abusive conduct was allowed to run unchecked for so long.

Frustrated by what she considers a lack of progress, the six-time Olympic medalist hopes she can get some answers in court.

Raisman filed a lawsuit against both organizations, claiming they “knew or should have known” about abusive patterns Nassar, a disgraced former national team doctor now in prison for sexually abusing young athletes.

Raisman filed the lawsuit in California on Wednesday.

The filing alleges negligence by the USOC and USA Gymnastics for failing to make sure appropriate protocols were followed in regards to monitoring Nassar.

Nassar, who is named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, is serving decades in prison for molesting some of the sport’s top athletes and others as well as child pornography crimes.

The 23-year-old Raisman, captain for both 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic champion gymnastics teams, says she was abused by Nassar in multiple locations beginning in 2010, including at the U.S. national team training facility at the Karolyi Ranch training center in Texas and the London Games.

Raisman said she initially felt she was receiving medically necessary treatment by Nassar before realizing it was abuse. She battled shame, guilt and depression in the aftermath, Raisman said.

Nassar spent nearly three decades at USA Gymnastics before being fired in 2015 after complaints about his behavior. He continued to work at Michigan State University through fall 2016 before being hit with federal charges.

Raisman said the USOC and USA Gymnastics allowed Nassar to continue abusing athletes by not telling the university about the conduct that led them to fire him.

USA Gymnastics and the USOC broke their stated mandates to protect children in their programs by not revealing Nassar’s past misconduct to athletes and their parents or guardians, the lawsuit said.

Raisman joined a list of more than 100 civil actions filed against Nassar and USA Gymnastics. Olympic teammate McKayla Maroney named the USOC as a co-defendant in a lawsuit she filed last December.

USA Gymnastics and the USOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Raisman, who has become a vocal critic of both organizations after initially revealing the abuse in her autobiography released last fall, did not plan to go to court but says she felt compelled to press forward because she believes USA Gymnastics and the USOC are not making a sincere effort to “properly address the problem.”

“I refuse to wait any longer for these organizations to do the right thing,” Raisman said in a statement. “It is my hope that the legal process will hold them accountable and enable the change that is so desperately needed.”

The USOC is conducting an independent review of when former CEO Scott Blackmun and others learned the details about abuse cases at USA Gymnastics and whether they responded appropriately.

Blackmun stepped down earlier this week to deal with prostate cancer, though Raisman, several high-profile gymnasts and two U.S. Senators called for his ouster for weeks.

USA Gymnastics underwent a massive overhaul in the last year.

Former president Steve Penny, named as a co-defendant in Raisman’s lawsuit, resigned last March. Longtime chairman of the board Paul Parilla, another co-defendant in the suit, and the rest of the board stepped down in January under heavy pressure from the USOC. USA Gymnastics also ended its relationship with the Karolyi Ranch in January and is currently searching for a new training center.

Raisman doesn’t believe either organization is going far enough fast enough for future generations of athletes.

“It has become painfully clear that these organizations have no intention of properly addressing this problem,” Raisman said. “After all this time, they remain unwilling to conduct a full investigation, and without a solid understanding of how this happened, it is delusional to think sufficient changes can be implemented.”

Raisman’s lawsuit claims both organizations focused on medals instead of the well-being of the athletes, a model that allowed Nassar’s behavior to go unchecked for years.

The lawsuit says the USOC “had a culture and atmosphere that conceals known and suspected sexual abusers, which transcends all policies and procedures that are set-in place.” Raisman believes the USOC ignored its own mandates “to protect its reputation and blind itself to known abusers within the ranks of the NGBs (National Governing Bodies) for which it is responsible.”

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MORE: Watch and read Aly Raisman’s speech facing Larry Nassar

Aly Raisman: Facing Larry Nassar was like competing at Olympics

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Aly Raisman said she doesn’t feel like justice was fully served when Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison on Wednesday.

“It’s not something where you just instantly feel better,” the three-time Olympic champion said on TODAY on Thursday (video here). “We need to hold these organizations accountable — USA Gymnastics, United States Olympic Committee, MSU [Michigan State University]. They need an independent investigation. This is bigger than Larry Nassar. We have to get to the bottom of how this disaster happened. If we don’t figure out how it did, we can’t be confident that it won’t happen again.”

Raisman was one of more than 150 women who provided victim-impact statements at Nassar’s seven-day sentencing that ended Wednesday.

Watch and read her full statement here.

Raisman faced Nassar for the first time last week since a 2015 USA Gymnastics training camp. She prepared mentally by looking at photos of him online.

“In that moment, I almost felt like I was going to compete because at the Olympics you block out everything, and in that moment, I blocked out everything,” Raisman said. “But after, I will be honest, I was sick. I almost passed out. I had the worst headache for hours. Even since then, I still don’t feel good now. … I’m very, very exhausted from it.”

Raisman was caught by surprise in the court room. Nassar looked her in the eye for her entire testimony.

Nassar wrote a letter to the judge last week arguing to stop the survivors from giving their testimonies in front of him in court.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn,” Nassar wrote. “It is a complete nightmare. The stories that are being fabricated to sensationalize this.”

TODAY Show host Hoda Kotb read part of that to Raisman on Thursday.

“I don’t think he understands,” Raisman said.

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MORE: Michigan State president resigns; read her letter

Aly Raisman faces Larry Nassar; watch and read her speech

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Aly Raisman spoke for 13 minutes at Larry Nassar‘s sentencing hearing on Friday.

Here’s what she said (video here and at bottom of post):

I didn’t think I would be here today. I was scared and nervous. It wasn’t until I started watching the impact statements from the other brave survivors that I realized I, too, needed to be here. Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing.

The tables have turned, Larry. We are here, we have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.

And now, Larry, it’s your turn to listen to me. There is no map that shows you the pathway to healing. Realizing that you are a survivor of sexual abuse is really hard to put into words. I cannot adequately capture the level of disgust I feel when I think about how this happened.

Larry, you abused the power and trust I and so many others placed in you, and I am not sure I will ever come to terms with how horribly you manipulated and violated me.

You were the USA Gymnastics national team doctor, the Michigan [State doctor] and the United States Olympic team doctor. You were trusted by so many and took advantage of countless athletes and their families. The effects of your actions are far-reaching. Abuse goes way beyond the moment, often haunting survivors for the rest of their lives, making it difficult to trust and impacting their relationships.

It is all the more devastating when such abuse comes at the hand of such a highly regarded doctor. Since it leaves survivors questioning the organizations and even the medical profession itself upon which so many rely.

I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I’ve regained my strength, that I’m no longer a victim. I’m a survivor. I am no longer that little girl you met in Australia, where you first began grooming and manipulating. As for your letter yesterday, you are pathetic to think that anyone would have any sympathy for you.

You think this is hard for you? Imagine how all of us feel. Imagine how it feels to be an innocent teenager in a foreign country, hearing a knock on the door, and it’s you. I don’t want you to be there, but I don’t have a choice.

Treatments with you were mandatory. You took advantage of that. You even told on us if we didn’t want to be treated by you, knowing full well the troubles that would cause for us. Lying on my stomach with you on my bed, insisting that your inappropriate touch would heal my pain. The reality is you caused me a great deal of physical, mental and emotional pain.

You never healed me. You took advantage of our passions and our dreams. You made me uncomfortable, and I thought you were weird. But I felt guilty because you were a doctor, so I assumed I was the problem for thinking badly of you.

I wouldn’t allow myself to belief that the problem is you. From the time we are little, we are taught to trust doctors. You are so sick that I can’t even comprehend how angry I feel when I think of you.

You lied to me and manipulated me to think that when you treated me you were closing your eyes because you had been working hard when you were really touching me, an innocent child, to pleasure yourself.

Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice. Well, you know what Larry, I have both power and voice, and I am only beginning to just use them. All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve, a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.

I am also here to tell you to your face, Larry, that you have not taken gymnastics away from me. I love this sport, and that love is stronger than the evil that resides in you and those who enabled you to hurt many people.

You already know you are going away to a place where you won’t be able to hurt anybody ever again, but I am here to tell you that I will not rest until every last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed like the cancer it is.

Your abuse started 30 years ago, but that’s just the first reported incident we know of. If over these many years just one adult listened and had the courage and character to act, this tragedy could have been avoided. I and so many others would have never, ever met you. 

Larry, you should have been locked up a long, long time ago. Fact is, we have no idea how many people you victimized or what was done or not done that allowed you to keep doing it. And to get away with it for so long. Over those 30 years, when survivors came forward, adult after adult, many in positions of authority, protected you, telling each survivor it was OK, that you weren’t abusing them. In fact, many adults had you convince the survivors that they were being dramatic or were mistaken. 

This is like being violated all over again. How do you sleep at night? You were decorated by USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee, both of which put you on advisory boards and committees to come up with policies that would protect athletes from this kind of abuse.

You are the person they had “take the lead of athlete care.” You are the person they say “provided the foundation for our medical system.” I cringe to think that your influence remains in the policies that are supposed to keep athletes safe, that these organizations have for years claimed “state of the art.”

To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change, but how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren’t even willing to acknowledge the problem? It’s easy to put out statements talking about how athlete care is the highest priority. But they’ve been saying that for years, and all the while this nightmare was happening. False assurances from organizations are dangerous, especially when people want so badly to believe them. They make it easier to look away from the problem and enable bad things to continue to happen. And even now, after all that has happened, USA Gymnastics has the nerve to say the very same things it has said all along.

Can’t you see how disrespectful that is? Can’t you see how much that hurts?

A few days ago, USA Gymnastics put out a statement attributed to its president and CEO, Kerry Perry, saying she came to listen to the courageous women and said, “their powerful voices leave an indelible imprint on me and will impact my decision as president and CEO every day.”

This sounds great, Ms. Perry, but at this point, talk is cheap. You left midway through the day, and no one has heard from you or the board.

Kerry, I have never met you, and I know you weren’t around for most of this, but you accepted the position of president and CEO of USA Gymnastics. And I assume by now you are very well aware of the weighty responsibility you’ve taken on. Unfortunately, you’ve taken on an organization that I feel is rotting from the inside and while this may not be what you thought you were getting into, you will be judged by how you deal with it.

A word of advice, continuing to issue statements of empty promises thinking that will pacify us will no longer work.

Yesterday, USA Gymnastics announced that it was terminating its lease at the ranch, where so many of us were abused. I am glad that it is no longer a national team training site, but USA Gymnastics neglected to mention that they had athletes training there the day they released the statement.

USA Gymnastics, where is the honesty? Where is the transparency? Why must the manipulation continue?

Neither USA Gymnastics nor the USOC have reached out to express sympathy or even offer support. Not even to ask, how did this happen? What do you think we can do to help?

Why have I and others here, probably, not heard anything from the leadership at the USOC? Why has the United States Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn’t the USOC here right now?

Larry was the Olympic doctor, and he molested me at the 2012 London Olympic Games. They say now they applaud those who have spoken out, but it’s easy to say that now when the brave women who started speaking out back then, more than a year after the USOC says they knew about Nassar, they were dismissed.

At the 2016 Olympic Games, the president of the USOC said that the USOC would not conduct an investigation and even defended USA Gymnastics as one of the leaders in developing policies to protect athletes. That’s the response a courageous woman gets when she speaks out? And when others joined those athletes and began speaking out with more stories of abuse, were they acknowledged?

No. It is like being abused all over again. I have represented the United States of America at two Olympics and have done so successfully, and both USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalize and celebrate my success.

But did they reach out when I came forward? No.

So, at this point, talk is worthless to me. We’re dealing with real lives and the future of our sport. We need to believe this won’t happen again. For this sport to go on, we need to demand real change, and we need to be willing to fight for it.

It’s clear now that if we leave it up to these organizations, history is likely to repeat itself. To know what changes are needed requires us to understand what exactly happened and why it has happened.

This is a painful process, but it’s the only way to identify all the factors that contributed to this problem and how they can be avoided in the future. This is the only way to learn from these mistakes and make gymnastics a safer sport.

If ever there was a need to fully understand a problem, it is this one right now. To accept that problem is limited to just what we know now is irresponsible, delusional even. Each new day seems to bring a new survivor. We have no idea just how much damage you caused, Larry. And we have no idea how deep these problems go. Now is the time to acknowledge that the very person who sits here before us now, who perpetrated the worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports, who is going to be locked up for a long, long time, this monster was also the architect of policies and procedures that are supposed to protect athletes from sexual abuse for both USA Gymnastics and the USOC.

If we are to believe in change, we must first understand the problem and everything that contributed to it. Now is not the time for false reassurances. We need an independent investigation of exactly what happened, what went wrong and how it can be avoided for the future. Only then can we know what changes are needed. Only then can we believe such changes are real.

Your honor, I ask you to give Larry the strongest possible sentence, which his actions deserve, for by doing so you will send a message to him and to other abusers that they cannot get away with their horrible crimes. They will be exposed for the evil they are, and they will be punished to the maximum extent of the law.

Let this sentence strike fear in anyone who thinks it is OK to hurt another person. Abusers, your time is up. The survivors are here, standing tall, and we are not going anywhere. And please, your honor, stress the need to investigate how this happened so that we can hold accountable those who empowered and enabled Larry Nassar. So we can repair and once again believe in this wonderful sport.

My dream is that one day everyone will know what the words, “me, too,” signify, but they will be educated and able to protect themselves from predators like Larry so that they will never, ever, ever have to say the words, “me, too.”

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