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'I thought I was going to die,' says US Olympian of doctor's abuse

McKayla Maroney is one of more than 100 victims to have accused Larry Nassar of sexual assault.

McKayla Maroney pictured during the 2012 Olympics.
McKayla Maroney pictured during the 2012 Olympics.
Image: Imago/PA Images

OLYMPIAN GYMNAST MCKAYLA Maroney on Thursday told of the “scars” left by alleged sexual abuse by the former national team doctor Larry Nassar, as a report claimed officials at an American university long knew he was suspected of misconduct.

More than 100 victims have accused the ex-USA Gymnastics doctor of sexual assault and dozens have delivered harrowing testimony since Tuesday, as a Michigan state judge weighs what Nassar’s sentence should be.

In a written statement read in court by a prosecutor, Maroney said the star doctor abused her for years, and did not stop until she left the sport.

The worst of the abuse was during a Tokyo trip, when she said Nassar gave her a sleeping pill and she awoke to find him molesting her. She was 15.

“I thought I was going to die that night,” Maroney said. ”He abused my trust. He abused my body. And left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”

“Because national team training camps did not allow parents to be present, my mom and dad were unable to observe what Nassar was doing. And this has imposed a terrible and undeserved burden of guilt on my loving family,” she added.

Fellow Olympian Jamie Dantzscher, who was one of the first to publicly accuse Nassar, also delivered searing testimony on Thursday.

Directly addressing the slight, bespectacled Nassar in court, she said the 54-year-old was brazen in his abuse.

You even had the audacity to abuse me in my room, in my own bed, at the Olympic games in Sydney,” she said.

Nassar has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct and could face life in prison. His sentence could be handed down as early as Friday.

He already faces 60 years in prison after being convicted of child pornography charges.

His accusers include four members of the star team that took home Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Games — Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Maroney.

Maroney’s court statement came a day after USA Gymnastics released the athlete from a gag order imposed as part of a $1.25 million settlement, following widespread criticism over the order.

- ‘Do the right thing’ -

Nassar’s case forced the resignation last year of USA Gymnastics chief Steve Penny, who was accused of failing to quickly notify authorities about abuse allegations.

Under mounting pressure, USA Gymnastics announced on Thursday that it will cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch, a longtime training centre for elite athletes in Huntsville, Texas — where Biles says she was abused by Nassar.

As the testimony unfolded, The Detroit News reported on Thursday that at least 14 officials at Michigan State University, which employed Nassar, had been informed of sexual abuse allegations as early as 1997.

The officials include MSU President Lou Anna Simon, who was informed in 2014, as well as athletic trainers, assistant coaches, a university police detective and others, according to the newspaper.

The university fired Nassar in September of 2016, after allegations of abuse became public.

MSU’s student newspaper on Thursday called for more accountability.

“President Lou Anna K. Simon, we now speak directly to you. Whether or not you admit guilt… you need to do the right thing,” said an editorial by The State News, calling for her resignation.

Now, to those who hide behind Simon, her cheerleaders and appointees… by allowing this serial predator to practice on campus, each and every one of you is just as guilty as Nassar.”

The university did not return a request for comment.

In a statement published on its website, spokesman Jason Cody said, “any suggestion that the university covered up Nassar’s horrific conduct is simply false.”

Michigan state judge Rosemarie Aquilina also revealed on Thursday that Nassar had written a note saying he could not sit through the hearing, because he feared his mental health could not withstand the testimonies.

“Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor, considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives,” Aquilina said in court.

© AFP 2018

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