Lansing, MI — Olympians Jamie Dantzscher and McKayla Maroney described Thursday morning how they were systemically abused for years by Larry Nassar while training with the U.S. national gymnastics team.
Dantzscher, who won a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics, appeared in person at Ingham County Circuit Court during Nassar’s sentencing hearing on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Maroney, a gold medalist in the 2012 Olympics, did not appear in court but had a statement read into the court record.
The two are the highest-profile athletes to present statements so far at the sentencing hearing, where more than 100 of Nassar’s victims are expected to tell their stories.
Dantzscher was one of the first women to publicly accuse the former Michigan State University sports doctor of sexually assaulting young women under the guise of medical treatment.
Nassar was fired by MSU in September 2016 days after the Indianapolis Star published a story in which Dantzscher and Rachel Denhollander, a former gymnast from Kalamazoo, described Nassar’s assaults, which involved penetrating the vagina and/or anus with his fingers.
Dantzscher also was among Nassar’s early victims, meeting him when she joined the U.S. national team at age 12 and he was the team doctor as a volunteer for USA Gymnastics.
During countless treatments, she said, Nassar penetrated her with his fingers, laid on top of her and rubbed his penis against her, massaged her genitals.
She didn’t tell her parents or coaches, she said, because she was told to trust Nassar, and because he acted as “good cop” to the harsh behavior of her coaches.
“You saw all the physical and emotional abuse and you pretended to be our side,” Dantzscher told Nassar in court Thursday. “But instead of protecting us and reporting the abuse, you used your power to abuse us as well.”
Dantzscher said her years as an elite gymnast took a severe physical and psychological toll, and she spent her early adulthood struggling with bulimia and depression so severe that she was hospitalized at one point for attempting suicide.
“I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me,” she said Thursday. “Why I was struggling so much. Why I didn’t feel proud of my accomplishments. I had zero self confidence.”
In the summer of 2016, she said, she was talking with a friend who was sexually abused and realized that her friend’s experiences and feelings about them were much the way she viewed Nassar’s medical treatments.
After she went public, “I had no idea there were other victims,” she said.
Moreover, the initial public response was not positive.
“I was attacked on social media,” she said. “People did not believe me. They believed him.
“They called me a liar. A whore. Accused me of making this up to get attention.
“But instead of backing down, I continued to speak my truth,” Dantzscher said. “I found out I wasn’t alone. I later learned he did this for many years to many, many girls, and their stories were shockingly similar to mine.”
Dantzscher said going public with her story is helping her to heal.
Finally, she said, “I’m truly proud of something that I’ve done from my elite gymnastics career.”
Maroney was abused almost two decades after Dantzscher, although her story was much the same.
In her statement, which was read by Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, Maroney described her early love for gymnastics and her dream of going to the Olympics.
“I did it. I got there,” Maroney’s statement said. “But not without a price. … I had a dream to go Olympics and things I had to do to get there are disgusting.
Like Dantzscher, Maroney first met Nassar when she joined the U.S. national gymnastics team and he was the team doctor. Like Dantzscher, his treatments involved massaging and penetration of her genitals.
“He was not a doctor. He was a child molester,” Maroney said. “He left scars on my psyche that will never go away.”
In her statement, Maroney said that Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee enabled Nassar by ignoring red flags.
She noted that MSU allowed Nassar to see patients even while under criminal investigation after a patient complained in 2014.
When Maroney and two of her teammates lodged complaints about Nassar to the USAG in the summer of 2015, “he was allowed to retire and MSU was never informed.”
“A simple fact is this,” the statement said, “had Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee paid attention to red flags, I would never met Larry Nassar. I would never had been abused by him.
“It’s time to hold leadership accountable,” she said.
Maroney did not reference the social media storm this week after it was reported she would be fined $100,000 if she gave a statement at Nassar’s hearing because a settlement she made with USA Gymnastics included a nondisclosure agreement.
In the wake of that report, model Chrissy Teigen said it would be an “honor” to pay the $100,000 fine.
“The entire principle of this should be fought – an NDA to stay quiet about this serial monster with over 140 accusers, but I would be absolutely honored to pay this fine for you, McKayla,” Teigen posted on Twitter.
USA Gymnastics issued a statement saying it would not fine Maroney if she spoke during the hearing.
“USA Gymnastics encourages McKayla and anyone who has been abused to speak out,” the USAG statement said. “USA Gymnastics remains focused on our highest priority — the safety, health and well-being of our athletes and creating a culture that empowers and supports them.”