Doctor accused of sex abuse by 2 gymnasts cleared in previous complaint

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(AP) — A doctor accused of sexual abuse by two gymnasts — including a 2000 U.S. Olympian — was investigated by Michigan State University authorities in 2014 over a another allegation of misconduct, but the school found no violation of its policy.

School spokesman Kent Cassella said Tuesday that local prosecutors did not file charges two years ago following an investigation by MSU police.

The revelation of a complaint by the Michigan State graduate comes after two female gymnasts, including a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, said they were sexually abused as teenagers by Larry Nassar, a former longtime doctor for USA Gymnastics.

Nassar is accused of sexually groping and fondling the Olympian during her elite career, according to a lawsuit filed last week in California by the athlete under the name “Jane Doe.”

The second gymnast, Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Kentucky, told the Indianapolis Star newspaper that Nassar sexually abused her in 2000 while she underwent treatment for lower back pain at Michigan State, where Nassar is a faculty member. She said she filed a complaint last month with university police.

Michigan State temporarily reassigned Nassar, 53, from clinical and patient duties as of Aug. 30, a day after Denhollander’s complaint was made to authorities. Cassella said that was the first time the school was aware of the allegation.

Cassella said the school investigated Nassar previously, however.

“In a separate incident in 2014, MSU authorities investigated a complaint of misconduct against Larry Nassar,” Cassella said in an email. “The complaint, filed by a recent female MSU graduate at the time, involved an allegation of abuse during a medical procedure. An administrative investigation revealed no violation of MSU policy, and the local prosecutor’s office did not file charges after an investigation by MSU police.

“During the investigation, Nassar was temporarily reassigned from his clinical and patient duties.”

Nassar’s attorney, Matthew Borgula, defended the doctor in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday night.

“MSU and local authorities conducted an investigation and found that there was no violation of law, nor of MSU policy and no lawsuit was ever filed. Dr. Nassar met with authorities at the time and completely cooperated,” Borgula said. “This claim, like the current allegations bantered about in the press, are wholly without merit. Dr. Nassar has never conducted any medical procedure at MSU without the full consent of his patient, and if the patient is a minor, without the parent’s consent.

“He has never been sued, until the recent lawsuit filed in California, and he has never been charged with a crime,” it continued. “He has been a physician for over 23 years, and part of the USA Gymnastics medical team for 29. During that time, no one has ever lodged a complaint against him that he was aware.”

USA Gymnastics released a statement Monday night indicating that it cut ties with Nassar when the organization’s President Steve Penny went to authorities immediately after learning of athlete concerns about Nassar in the summer of 2015.

When asked Tuesday by the AP if it notified Michigan State or other entities affiliated with Nassar about the concerns raised, USA Gymnastics spokesperson Leslie King referred back to the organization’s statement on Monday.

“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.

USA Gymnastics has not identified the organization it contacted, also at the request of the law enforcement agency.

USA Gymnastics said Tuesday night it was not contacted about Michigan State’s 2014 investigation of Nassar.

Cassella said the school didn’t consider contacting USA Gymnastics in 2014 because “the administrative investigation revealed no violation of MSU policy” and no charges were filed.

MORE: Two gymnasts allege sex abuse by doctor for USA Gymnastics

IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

Thomas Bach
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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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How did U.S. women’s basketball replace its legends? It starts with Alyssa Thomas.

Alyssa Thomas
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If this FIBA World Cup marks the beginning of a new era of U.S. women’s basketball, it is notable, if not remarkable, that no player has been more visible than Alyssa Thomas.

Thomas is making her global championship debut in Sydney. She is the only woman on the team in her 30s. Rarely, if ever, has a player who waited this long to put on a U.S. uniform made such an impact out of the gate. Certainly not since the last major tournament in Australia, when 30-year-old Yolanda Griffith starred at the 2000 Olympics.

Over the last week, Thomas leads the U.S. in minutes played and is one of two players to start all seven games along with Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP. She ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 points per game), is tied for second in rebounding (6.7), second in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.7).

The Americans, with their new breakthrough power forward, face China in Saturday’s final, seeking a fourth consecutive world title and 60th consecutive victory between Olympic and world championship play dating to 2006.

“She takes a lot of pressure off of us,” two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said after Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a quarterfinal win over Serbia. “I think she’s the glue of this team, the X-factor of this team, because that’s her game and that’s her style.”

Thomas earned the nickname “Baby Bron Bron” at the University of Maryland for her LeBron James-like play. USA Basketball took notice in 2013, when she was one of six collegians named to a 33-player national team training camp.

But that participation was the last of Thomas’ bullet points on her USA Basketball bio for another nine years, until she was named to the FIBA World Cup qualifying team last February.

Thomas had to wait her turn.

The U.S. was loaded in the frontcourt in the 2010s with more established players — Candace ParkerTina CharlesSylvia FowlesBrittney GrinerElena Delle Donne — and then Stewart and Wilson came along, becoming arguably the two most valuable Americans in the last Olympic cycle.

Thomas produced, to that point, the best WNBA season of her career in 2020, but tore an Achilles playing overseas in January 2021, ruling out any chance of making the Tokyo Olympic team. (Thomas was not in the 36-player national team pool at the time of her injury.)

The combination of players’ absences this year — Charles, after three Olympic golds, ceded to younger players, Fowles retired and Griner is being detained in Russia — and Cheryl Reeve becoming head coach created an opportunity.

Thomas seized it, leading the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals, where she recorded triple-doubles in the last two games of a series loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Then she boarded a plane to Sydney for her first major international experience and has similarly flourished.

Jennifer Rizzotti, part of the USA Basketball selection committee, said the 6-foot-2 Thomas combines the movement of Lindsay Whalen, the passing of Parker and the physicality of Rebekkah Brunson. She plays with labrum tears in each shoulder. There’s no single player like her.

“There’s definitely some post players that have that point forward mentality, but not quite with the guard skills that Alyssa has,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t see anybody, including guards, that can do what she does in the open court. Then you talk about how disruptive she is defensively and her ability to guard one through five. A’ja can guard one through five, Stewie can guard one through five, but nobody’s as disruptive as Alyssa is. On the perimeter and off the ball.”

Thomas also fit what Reeve, who succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, was looking for in retooling the roster following the retirement of Sue Bird and possible end of Diana Taurasi‘s national team career at age 40.

“[Reeve] made it clear that she was hoping with the guard turnover that we would be able to play faster, more athletically, more possessions in the game,” Rizzotti said. “And therefore, she wanted to have post players that could push tempo, that could facilitate and kind of fit in with a ball-handling, passing mentality from the trail spot.”

Still, Thomas did not expect to be putting on a USA jersey this year. “Shocked” is the word USA Basketball chose to describe her reaction to making this team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” she said, according to USA Basketball. “I had just really taken my name out of it.”

Rizzotti said Thomas is an example — a very successful one, it turns out — of an asset in the eyes of the selection committee: patience.

“I think a lot of players feel like if they don’t make the USA national team right away, it’s never going to happen,” she said. “You get the comments like, oh, it’s political, or they keep inviting the same guys back. And it’s not true.”

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