McKayla Maroney’s Dark Journey: Olympic Champion, Abused Gymnast

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Jim's picture

Many important lessons:

Example: "Life on the team was isolating, team members, coaches and investigators say. Parents were kept at arm’s length. When the team traveled, USA Gymnastics booked a separate hotel for families. Parents were seldom allowed at the Karolyi ranch. "

Bert Perry's picture

...but the paragraph I read makes me grateful and amazed that the number of suicides wasn't higher.  (there were two; one victim and one victim's father)  Hint for us; if people are texting "rescue me" from events your church or ministry is running, you're doing it wrong.  Another hint; we exclude parents and other accountability factors from our events at our peril. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

  • Ms. Maroney was Nassar’s favorite, the national-team gymnasts knew. He always treated her last, sometimes keeping her two or three times longer than others. He photographed her constantly. Even after Ms. Maroney talked to authorities about his actions, Nassar continued treating patients for a year.
  • In 2015, Ms. Maroney spoke to an investigator hired by USA Gymnastics and described for the first time what Nassar did to her under the guise of medical treatment.

    Inquiries into her allegations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation seemed to go nowhere for almost a year, while USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee stayed silent. As Nassar continued to treat patients, Ms. Maroney grew even more despairing as each day passed without the doctor’s arrest, her father says.

  • In lawsuits, interviews, congressional testimony and court statements, they have indicated they see the scandal as the product of a warped culture that prized money, medals and reputation above athletes’ well-being.

    As long as USA Gymnastics produced results and had absolute power over gymnasts’ futures, no parent or gymnast would question the means by which Olympic squads were coached, selected or treated medically, they say.

    Even if they had recognized Nassar’s treatments as abuse at the time, says Ms. Wieber, Ms. Maroney’s teammate, the gymnasts wouldn’t risk their chances at making the Olympic team. “USA Gymnastics created a culture of silence,” Ms. Wieber says. “We knew that if we spoke out, we wouldn’t have gotten chosen.”

  • The gymnasts were surrounded only by adults who had a role in preparing them for competition.

  • In some ways, Nassar seemed like a friend for the gymnasts—even a “miracle worker,” said Ms. Wieber in a court statement. He brought them food and always made time for them, she said. In lengthy, cheerful emails, Nassar described gymnasts’ injuries to USA Gymnastics officials, coaches and parents.

  • Nassar provided medical care to gymnasts at the Karolyi ranch, often in an isolated room. He had unfettered access to gymnasts’ rooms there and in hotels on the road, Ms. Maroney and others have alleged.
  • Her suit also alleged Nassar “obsessively” photographed her. Nassar was an amateur photographer for USA Gymnastics, providing sideline photos at meets. He also photographed Ms. Maroney, say people familiar with the matter, in everyday circumstances: at airports, at the Karolyi ranch, in practices, walking around.
  • Ms. Wieber says she initially didn’t think of Nassar’s treatments as abuse. “We weren’t ever in a position to question his treatments,” she says. “It just felt like, at the point in time, that we needed him.”
  • In fact, as Nassar’s fixation on Ms. Maroney became increasingly obvious, Ms. Wieber says she would complain Ms. Maroney “got more treatment, and it wasn’t fair.”
Jim's picture

Costs From Nassar Case Likely to Exceed $500 Million for Michigan State

The tally includes possible settlements with about 250 victims, legal fees associated with an army of law firms representing the university and fines

Financial fallout from sexual-abuse allegations against former U.S. national gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar will likely soar well past half a billion dollars for Michigan State University, estimates from legal experts indicate, more than twice the cost of the abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University.

The tally includes possible settlements with about 250 victims, legal fees associated with an army of law firms representing the university and fines. Victim settlements alone could account for over $300 million, based on precedents in the Penn State and Catholic Church abuse cases. It isn’t clear how much of the tab would be covered by the school’s insurers.

The looming costs have major implications for Michigan State, especially if state lawmakers pass proposed bills that would increase the statute of limitations for victims and take away legal immunity for public universities. Interim President John Engler, a former Michigan governor, has said increased tuition is one possible way to cover the costs, and warned that consequences could be even more dire.

“I don’t know if it would force bankruptcy (for the university) or not,” Mr. Engler said in a Michigan State Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing earlier this month. “I hope not.”

Estimating how much each victim could receive in a settlement is tricky, but risk management experts and lawyers who have made agreements in other sex-abuse suits say that the Nassar cases could reach up to $2 million each. USA Gymnastics signed a confidential $1.25 million settlement—paid by insurance—with former Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney in late 2016, to resolve her sexual-abuse claims against Dr. Nassar, according to court filings; she filed a lawsuit in December against Michigan State, the U.S. Olympic Committee and others.

The dollar amounts can run higher if the victims were minors when the abuse occurred, or if they were assaulted more than once or after the university knew of similar allegations, these people said. Multiple plaintiffs have alleged that they complained about Dr. Nassar to coaches, doctors and others at Michigan State as early as 1997, and that their concerns were ignored or dismissed.

Bert Perry's picture alma mater would stop blowing smoke about the matter.  They have an endowment of $2.7 billion and a plant that is worth many billions of dollars--the residence halls alone house 17000 students are are likely worth more than the likely settlement amount.  MSU is not going bankrupt over this, and the more smoke Engler and the board of trustees blow, the more expensive this one gets.

Engler needs to get off his rear end and talk with the insurer and alumni donors and come up with a plan to pay--there's simply too much evidence that MSU looked past the offenses of Nassar, Strampel, and others to envision a situation where they would win any of these lawsuits.   You sit down, look at the evidence and see if there's any plausible reason you would get mercy in the court, and then come up with a plan to deal with the damage.  Worth noting here is that the total number of civil jury verdicts in the Penn State debacle is zero; they settled the civil suits before they came to trial.  Penn State wasn't perfect, but they did a lot better than MSU has.

What I'd really like to see, to be honest, is for MSU to come to an agreement with the victims and then host an event where the President (who I hope will not be John Engler), board of trustees, deans, and coaches all get to apologize personally to as many victims as will come--and for those who don't want to (and I can't blame them), a letter of apology signed by every one of them.  Get an independent investigator to come through all the Title IX reports and come up with a plan to get those reports to the police.  Change the culture.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

There has to be a better description of this USAG / MSU / IOC trifecta fail than 'systemic failure'.  A failure implies that something, if caught in time, could have been amended and fixed.  This?  This isn't a failure.  This was possibly one of the largest and most clear cut moral abdications in US history.  Penn State did a lot wrong, but it certainly seems like they're working to rebuild themselves and make themselves better.  Now, whenever I hear anything from MSU, I just wait for their statements to be disproven as hollow shams, and I'm generally not shocked when they are.

At some point, you would think the governor of MI would need to get involved with this.  It's a blight on the state's reputation, and the money that MSU will be paying out is also going to be coming from state taxpayers.  Furthermore, aren't the trustees supposed to be vetted in some way by Lansing?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

They're elected by voters, but there is a procedure the governor can initiate to remove trustees in problems like this.  That noted, the key trustee in this case, Joel Ferguson, is 100% in favor of how things are being handled, and he's probably perceived as untouchable because he's black.  For that matter, he's enough of a power broker in Lansing--he owns local TV and radio stations--that even if his allies are given the bum's rush, all H*** would break loose.  I'm pretty sure that the powers that be are waiting him out to see what the new board--two new members fully in the corner of Brian Mosallam and one to be chosen by the governor to replace George Perles--will do.  

My prayer is that they will quietly but firmly nudge MSU to a better response.  I am not holding my breath. 

One correction; this is not a moral abdication by MSU leadership and others.  It is a moral abomination.  Many of Larry Nassar's victims report deliberate cruelty by the powers that be at MSU, USA Gymnastics, and the USOC, and you also have the deliberate hiding and obscuring of evidence to boot.  If you want to know what leaders at institutions you love should NOT do in such a case, just look at what they've done.

(Go Green, and take the Lions with you.....from an eminently disgusted alumnus)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

At least one of the new trustees has voted with Joel Ferguson for choosing the new head of the trustees, which seems to be a bad sign for removing Engler.  Now those who are theoretically for removing him are bickering over whether Engler's behavior is representative of the board.  Hint; if you can fire him, it is.


Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Brian Mosallam has tweeted this, suggesting that John Engler is going to be told "don't let the door hit ya where the Lord split ya". We'll see if he's got the votes, as I'm pretty sure he's wanted to do this for a while.  Praying this will happen, that Engler will do some introspection and apologize, and that the next President of MSU will at least be able to mind his manners a bit better.

If this is true, all I can say to those who love MSU (like me) is "celebrate responsibly". 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

He's resigning.  Praying that the replacement will have a little better sense than Engler.  A good audit and lots of apologies are needed.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.