Dominique Moceanu

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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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MORE: John Orozco retires, reflects on gymnastics career

Final Five throw acrobatic first pitches, like McKayla Maroney, Dominique Moceanu

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Olympic gymnasts have been throwing ceremonial first pitches for years, but only recently have flips and cartwheels become part of the routine.

On Saturday, Final Five members Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian performed those acrobatics en route to their tosses to home plate at MLB games.

In July, Simone Biles did the same at a Houston Astros contest.

Heck, even Magnificent Seven team member Dominique Moceanu did so at a minor-league game in August.

The first time a U.S. Olympic gymnast flipped for a first pitch, and it went viral, was in 2014, when McKayla Maroney did so at a Chicago White Sox game.

The other four 2012 Olympic team members — Gabby DouglasAly RaismanJordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross — have thrown first pitches of the more traditional variety. As have Nastia LiukinShawn JohnsonCarly Patterson and Mary Lou Retton (Retton once threw one underhand).

Of everyone, Kocian appeared to enjoy herself the most.

Her love for the Rangers may have sparked in June 1997, when her father had to leave a game at The Ballpark in Arlington during the first weekend of interleague play in MLB history for Kocian’s birth.

On Saturday, Kocian said she preferred meeting Rangers All-Star Adrián Beltré — and receiving an autographed bat — to Beyoncé at the MTV Video Music Awards six days earlier.

“It was very fun meeting Beyoncé, she was very nice, and I’m happy that we got to present her a VMA,” Kocian said Saturday. “But I’m a very big Rangers fan, so Beltré giving me the bat was just the cherry on top.”

MORE: Biles plans to take one year off

‘Magnificent Seven’ Olympic flashback on 20th anniversary

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Twenty years ago, seven U.S. teenagers earned the first U.S. Olympic women’s team title, inspiring many of the gymnasts who have now turned America into a burgeoning dynasty in the sport.

Amanda BordenAmy ChowDominique DawesShannon MillerDominique MoceanuJaycie Phelps and Kerri Strug took gold in the Georgia Dome on July 23, 1996.

Today, NBCOlympics.com pays tribute. LINKS:

HOMEPAGE
Celebrate the 20-year anniversary

ARTICLES
Magnificent Seven:
Where are they now? | 20-year reunion
Dawes: ‘We’re getting old, and it’s awesome’
Miller: ‘Hopefully we continue to inspire’
Strug: ‘The day my life changed’

Fast Facts: 20 things you didn’t know about the Mag Seven
Quiz:
How well do you know the Magnificent Seven?

ROUTINE VIDEOS
Amanda Borden on Balance Beam
Amy Chow on Uneven Bars
Dominique Dawes on Uneven Bars

Shannon Miller on Balance Beam

Dominique Moceanu on Floor Exercise
Jaycie Phelps on Floor Exercise
Kerri Strug on Vault

Bonus: Medal Ceremony Video
Bonus: Olympians commentate Strug’s iconic vault

MORE: Analyzing U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team