Former Gymnasts File Lawsuit Against USA Gymnastics, Allege Sexual Abuse

Photo: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images.

Former members of the USA Gymnastics national team filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a team doctor. The lawsuit, which has over 40 plaintiffs, states that Dr. Lawrence Nassar sexually abused the girls, who range in age from as young as nine years old and most under eighteen.

The suit claims that Dr. Nassar would perform what were referred to as “pain treatments” on the girls. During these treatments, he allegedly would insert his ungloved hand into the girl's vagina. The "treatments" were done for "no good reason," asserts their attorney John Manley.

In an unrelated case last year, Nassar was charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan in November.

Jamie Dantzscher, an Olympic bronze medalist; Jessica Howard; and Jeanette Antolin were interviewed by 60 Minutes in a taped piece for the news program and appeared live on CBS This Morning. Gayle King asked why the women have come forward now. “There hasn’t been a change in the sport in 30 years,” Antolin said. She is concerned that this type of behavior is being kept under wraps.

Dantzscher’s said she is speaking out now because she only recently realized that what happened to her was abuse. She never questioned the behavior. She believed it was treatment, and she trusted Dr. Nassar and USA Gymnastics. “So for me to speak up, this is about making sure this doesn’t happen to other little girls,” she told King.

Jessica Howard said that the women are driven by a love of their sport. They want people to know that it is safe and right now that is not something that they feel is true. Howard said there is a culture of emotional and physical abuse and that contributes to the sexual abuse. “Sexual abuse is a by-product of what happens when that is the culture,” she said.

USA Gymnastics issued a statement in response to the lawsuit. Board Chairman Paul Parilla and CEO Steve Penny spoke for the organization. Parilla also issued a video statement.

“Nothing is more important to USA Gymnastics than protecting young people,” the statement read, in part. “Their health and well-being is our priority, and USA Gymnastics is committed to doing everything we can to promote a safe environment for athletes.”

The governing body says that they first learned of complaints about Dr. Nassar in 2015 and referred those complaints to the FBI.