Larry Nassar

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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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Nastia Liukin ‘completely shocked’ by allegations against ex-USA Gymnastics doctor

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NBC Olympics analyst Nastia Liukin said Dr. Larry Nassar treated her injuries throughout her national-team career, and every encounter with him was professional.

Liukin, speaking at the AT&T American Cup on Saturday, said she was “completely shocked” about sexual-assault allegations against Nassar, a USA Gymnastics team doctor from 1996 to 2015.

Liukin was a senior national-team member from 2005-09 and again in 2012.

“I’m completely shocked when I heard all the news,” Liukin said on NBC. “Every encounter that I had with him was professional. My whole experience on the national team with USA Gymnastics was nothing but positive.”

Liukin also said she never heard of other gymnasts being abused by him during her career.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to all the gymnasts and the parents that are affected and involved in all of this,” said Liukin, whose father, Valeri Liukin, is the current U.S. women’s national-team coordinator and was an elite developmental coordinator from 2013 to 2016. “I encourage everybody in any sport really if they feel something is not right to speak up.”

In the last seven months, more than 80 people have claimed to be victims of sexual assault by Nassar, according to the Michigan State University Police Department. Nassar also formerly worked with Michigan State’s gymnastics team.

Nassar has been charged with 25 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and is currently being held in federal custody on child pornography charges.

He’s also being sued by dozens of women and girls, including 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher, who described the assaults on “60 Minutes” Sunday.

“This guy is disgusting. This guy is despicable,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette told reporters last month. “He is a monster.”

USA Gymnastics fired Nassar two years ago after going to federal authorities following an investigation into possible abuse by Nassar, leading the FBI to conduct its own investigation of the doctor.

Michigan State fired him last September after he violated restrictions that were put in place in 2014 following a complaint.

He has denied abuse, and, in an email last fall to his Michigan State bosses, said, “I will overcome this.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Police: 81 people accuse ex-USA Gymnastics doctor of sexual assault

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan sports doctor who treated elite female U.S. gymnasts was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting nine girls, including some too reluctant to speak up about the alleged abuse years ago because he was considered a “god.”

In the last six months, 81 people have claimed to be victims of sexual assault by ex-USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, according to the Michigan State University Police Department.

Roughly two dozen charges were filed Wednesday against Nassar, the first criminal cases related to his work at Michigan State University where he was the preferred doctor for gymnasts in the region who had back or hip injuries.

He’s also being sued by dozens of women and girls, including 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher, who described the assaults on “60 Minutes” Sunday.

“This guy is disgusting. This guy is despicable,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette told reporters. “He is a monster.”

Nassar, 53, was a doctor for Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, until summer 2015, accompanying the women’s team at international competitions, including the Olympics. Michigan State fired him last September after he violated restrictions that were put in place in 2014 following a complaint.

Nassar’s attorneys declined to comment Wednesday. He has denied abuse, and, in an email last fall to his Michigan State bosses, said, “I will overcome this.”

The charges were filed in two cases: one in Ingham County, the home of Michigan State, and the other nearby in Eaton County, where Nassar saw injured girls at Gedderts’ Twistars Club, a gymnastics club.

He’s accused of sticking his fingers in their vaginas, without gloves, during treatments for various injuries. Parents were asked to leave the room or Nassar used a sheet or stood in a position to block any view, police said. Two girls were under age 13, and seven were 13 to 16.

“Dr. Nassar used his status and authority to engage in horrid sexual assaults under the guise of medical procedures,” Schuette said.

A girl identified as Victim B, now 21, said she was sexually assaulted by Nassar “`more times than she could count,”‘ Det. Sgt. Andrea Munford wrote in an affidavit.

“Victim B stated that she and all the gymnasts trusted Nassar and that he was like a god to the gymnasts. … Because it was happening to all of them, they thought it was normal,” Munford said.

Munford said Nassar sometimes gave gifts to girls to keep their confidence, including leotards and pins from the Olympics. One victim quoted Nassar as saying, “We don’t tell parents about this because they wouldn’t understand,” a reference to vaginal penetration.

Schuette said more charges are coming. Michigan State University Police Chief James Dunlap said he has more than a dozen people working on the Nassar investigation.

Nassar suddenly came under intense scrutiny last summer when former gymnasts accused him of abuse, following an August report in the Indianapolis Star about how USA Gymnastics handled sexual abuse complaints against coaches and others.

Lawyers suing Michigan State on behalf of victims have accused the university of failing to do more to prevent Nassar’s alleged acts. In court filings, gymnastics coach Kathie Klages is accused of downplaying complaints about him in the late 1990s. She suddenly quit last week, a day after she was suspended for defending him in front of her team.

Michigan State is conducting an internal investigation of Nassar’s work.

“I am deeply troubled by the emerging details and recognize the courage it takes to come forward with information about personally traumatic events,” President Lou Anna Simon said Wednesday.

Besides the new criminal cases, Nassar faces charges in two cases that were filed in 2016 and are unrelated to his work as a doctor. He’s accused of possessing child pornography and molesting the daughter of family friends. He remains in jail without bond.

Dantzscher spoke to “60 Minutes” about her experiences with Nassar.

“He would put his fingers inside of me, move my leg around,” she “He would tell me I was going to feel a pop and that that would put my hips back and help my back pain.”