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Gymnastics doctor’s lawyers want trial moved, cite media coverage

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Attorneys for a former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor accused of molesting dozens of athletes are pushing to have his trial moved out of the Lansing area.

The Lansing State Journal reports that attorneys representing Larry Nassar filed a change-of-venue request because of what they called “inflammatory and sustained media coverage” that they say has made it difficult for Nassar to get a fair trial in the area.

The media attention grew more intense this week when 21-year-old 2012 Olympic gold medal gymnast McKayla Maroney wrote on Twitter that Nassar started assaulting her when she was 13.

Nassar has pleaded not guilty to nearly two dozen charges in Michigan. He has pleaded guilty to three child pornography charges in an unrelated case but has not been sentenced.

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Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor

McKayla Maroney
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Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney says she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, abuse she said started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

Maroney posted a lengthy statement on Twitter early Wednesday that detailed the allegations of abuse against Dr. Larry Nassar, who spent three decades working with athletes at USA Gymnastics but now is in jail in Michigan awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.

Nassar has pleaded not guilty to the assault charges, and the dozens of civil suits filed in Michigan are currently in mediation.

Maroney, now 21, says the abuse began while attending a U.S. National team training camp at the Karoyli Ranch in the Sam Houston Forest north of Houston, Texas.

Maroney was 13 at the time and wrote Nassar told her she was receiving “medically necessary treatment he had been performing on patients for over 30 years.” Maroney did not detail Nassar’s specific actions.

Maroney, who won a team gold and an individual silver on vault at the 2012 Olympics in London, said Nassar continued to give her “treatment” throughout her career.

She described Nassar giving her a sleeping pill while the team traveled to Japan for the 2011 World Championships.

Maroney says Nassar later visited her in her hotel room after the team arrived in Tokyo, where he molested her yet again.

“I thought I was going to die that night,” Maroney wrote.

Maroney did not immediately return an interview request. Attorneys for Nassar had no comment. USA Gymnastics also had no immediate comment.

Maroney says she decided to come forward as part of the #MeToo movement on social media that arose in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“This is happening everywhere,” Maroney wrote. “Wherever there is a position of power, there is the potential for abuse. I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary and disgusting.”

Maroney called for change, urging other victims to speak out and demanding organizations “be held accountable for their inappropriate actions and behavior.”

Maroney is the highest-profile gymnast yet to come forward claiming she was abused by Nassar.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, was part of the initial wave of lawsuits filed against Nassar in 2016.

Aly Raisman, who won six medals as the captain of the U.S. Olympic women’s team in 2012 and 2016, called for sweeping change at USA Gymnastics in August.

USA Gymnastics launched an independent review of its policies in the wake of the allegations against Nassar in the summer of 2016 following reporting by the Indianapolis Star that highlighted chronic mishandling of abuse allegations against coaches and staff at some of its more than 3,500 clubs across the country.

In June, the federation immediately adopted 70 recommendations proffered by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the review.

The new guidelines require member gyms to go to authorities immediately, with Daniels suggesting USA Gymnastics consider withholding membership from clubs that decline to do so.

The organization also named Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport.

Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs, reporting and adjudication services.

USA Gymnastics had initially agreed to purchase the training facility at the Karolyi Ranch following longtime national team coordinator Martha Karolyi’s retirement shortly after the 2016 Olympics ended.

The organization has since opted out of that agreement. The organization also fired president Steve Penny in March. A replacement has not been named.

Maroney, who lives in California and officially retired in 2015, encouraged others to speak out.

“Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long,” she wrote, “and it’s time to take our power back.”