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Larry Nassar sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — After listening to the riveting pleas of more than 150 victims, a judge sentenced Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison, saying she “signed your death warrant.”

“Your crime, all of your crimes, the depth of them, have cut into the core of this community and many communities and all of the families and many people we don’t even know,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said Wednesday. “You have not yet owned what you did. You still think that somehow you are right, that you’re a doctor, you’re entitled, that you don’t have to listen and that you did treatment I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir. There’s no treatment here.

“Your decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable. I don’t have to add words because your survivors have said all of that.

“You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again.”

The former USA Gymnastics national team doctor parlayed his reputation and personal charm into years of sexual abuse by molesting Olympic gymnasts and other young female athletes instead of solving their sports injuries.

“Your words these past several days, your words, your words,” Nassar said as he circled to face his victims in the gallery before the sentencing, “have had a significant emotional effect on myself and have shaken me to my core. I also recognize that what I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma and emotional destruction [to the victims]. … An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible.”

USA Gymnastics CEO and president Kerry Perry said in a statement that the organization “applauds” the sentence “for his horrific behavior.”

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun apologized, saying, “the Olympic family is among those that have failed you.”

“We have strongly considered decertifying USAG as a National Governing Body,” Blackmun wrote in a letter. “But USA Gymnastics includes clubs and athletes who had no hand in this and who need to be supported. We believe it would hurt more than help the athletes and their sport. But we will pursue decertification if USA Gymnastics does not fully embrace the necessary changes in their governance structure along with other mandated changes under review right now.”

Aquilina heard from a few more victims and then sent Nassar to prison Wednesday, the seventh day of a remarkable hearing that gave the girls, young women and their parents a chance to confront him in court.

He faced a minimum prison term of 25 to 40 years.

Nassar was previously sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes in December. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week on more assault convictions in Eaton County, Mich.

Among those who spoke Wednesday: Rachael Denhollander, a Kentucky woman who contacted Michigan State University police in 2016 after reading reports about how USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, mishandled complaints of sexual misconduct.

Nassar worked at Michigan State.

“The sentence rendered today will send a message across this country, a message to every victim and a message to very perpetrator,” Denhollander said, asking for the maximum sentence. “This sentence will send a message about how seriously abuse will be taken. So I ask, how much is a little girl worth?”

Nassar, 54, eventually pleaded guilty to assaulting seven people in the Lansing area, including Denhollander, but the sentencing hearing was open to anyone who said they were a victim.

His accusers said he would use his ungloved hands to penetrate them, often without explanation, while they were on a table seeking help for various injuries.

“I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back over and over and referred family and friends to see me,” Nassar wrote in a letter to the judge last week, read by the judge Wednesday. “The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn. It is a complete nightmare. The stories that are being fabricated to sensationalize this.”

The accusers, many of whom were children, said they trusted Nassar to care for them properly, were in denial about what was happening or were afraid to speak up. He sometimes used a sheet or his body to block the view of any parent in the room.

“I’d been told during my entire gymnastics career to not question authority,” a former elite gymnast, Isabell Hutchins, said Tuesday.

Aquilina praised the victims who appeared in her court since Jan. 16, calling them “sister survivors,” while also assuring them that their perpetrator will pay. T

The women included Olympic champions Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney.

“Your words are vital. They are as strong as your martial arts,” Aquilina told Christina Barba, who has known Nassar for decades and practices karate. “They will take him down quicker and cleaner than any kick you’ve got.”

Hutchins and Mattie Larson, a 2010 World Championships silver medalist, talked about how Nassar won their allegiance with candy, Olympic trinkets and encouraging words while they were under constant scrutiny from their demanding coaches.

Brooke Hylek, a gymnast who plans to compete in college, heaped scorn on Nassar.

“I cannot believe I ever trusted you and I will never forgive you,” she said Tuesday. “I’m happy you will be spending the rest of your life in prison. Enjoy hell by the way.”

Emily Morales had a softer message.

“I want you to apologize to me right here,” the 18-year-old told Nassar. “I want to forgive you, but I also want to hear you tell me that you regret all the hurting you caused.”

He did. She replied with, “Thank you.”

Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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