Former victim confronts US gymnastics doctor

Dozens of victims, including former member of the US national gymnastics team Jeanette Antolin, are testifying on the second day of the sentencing hearing of Michigan sports doctor, Larry Nassar.

LANSING (Michigan) • One of the victims of USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who pleaded guilty to molesting dozens of girls, blamed the disgraced doctor on Tuesday for her father's suicide.

Kyle Stephens, pausing to compose herself during Nassar's sentencing hearing in a courtroom in Lansing, Michigan, said the doctor began molesting her when she was six years old and her parents did not believe her when she told them.

"You convinced my parents that I was a liar," Stephens said directly to the bespectacled Nassar, who was a family friend.

"Little girls don't stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world."

Once her father realised she was telling the truth about the abuse, he took his own life, she added.

Stephens was the first of nearly 100 women who are expected to provide victim-impact statements during the four-day hearing.

Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Nassar, 54, who served as the USA Gymnastics doctor through four Olympic Games.

Several victims gave emotional testimony on Tuesday and also asked Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to impose the maximum sentence.

Donna Markham, the mother of Chelsea Markham, testified that her daughter was molested by Nassar after seeking treatment for a back injury when she was 10, Sports Illustrated reported.

Chelsea never recovered from the abuse and it led her to a life of drugs, culminating in suicide in 2009 at the age of 23, the mother said, according to the magazine.

Nassar, former team doctor for the Michigan State University (MSU) gymnastics and women's crew teams, and an associate professor at MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine, was sentenced to 60 years in prison last month on child pornography charges.

Olympic gold medallists Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles have gone public to say they were assaulted by Nassar while undergoing treatment.

USA Gymnastics has since adopted a new "safe sport policy" that requires "mandatory reporting" of suspicions of sexual abuse.

International Gymnastics Federation president Morinari Watanabe told AFP on Tuesday that his governing body will also set up a victim support body in the wake of the abuse of children by Nassar.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2018, with the headline 'Former victim confronts US gymnastics doctor'. Print Edition | Subscribe