Gymnastics: McKayla Maroney sues over 'coerced' silence vow

McKayla Maroney was under the care of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar at the 2012 Olympics in London.
McKayla Maroney (above) was under the care of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar at the 2012 Olympics in London.
McKayla Maroney was under the care of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar at the 2012 Olympics in London.
McKayla Maroney was under the care of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar (above) at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Olympic gymnast alleges she was forced into keeping mum over team doctor's abuse

NEW YORK • US gymnast McKayla Maroney filed a suit against the US Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics on Wednesday, amid reports officials paid her to remain silent about sexual abuse by former team doctor Larry Nassar.

Maroney, a two-time world champion vaulter, helped the Americans win team golds in the 2012 Olympics and 2011 world championships. She was also the 2012 Olympic vaulting runner-up.

Gold medallists Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas are among the other gymnasts who have accused Nassar of sexual assault.

Maroney signed a settlement deal with USA Gymnastics (Usag) in December last year to resolve claims related to years of sexual abuse by Nassar, the existence of which was revealed in the lawsuit filed at Los Angeles' Superior Court, according to the Wall Street Journal, ESPN and the Los Angeles Times.

"They were willing to engage in a systemic cover-up of the entire matter," attorney John Manley told ESPN.

The Journal and Times reported the amount of the settlement as US$1.25 million (S$1.68 million).

Manley said Maroney made the deal at a time when she was traumatised by news Nassar had abused dozens of other gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment.

"I want people to understand this kid had no choice - she couldn't function, she couldn't work," Manley said.

Usag "were willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of one of the most famous gymnasts in the world because they didn't want the world to know they were protecting a paedophile doctor," he added.

Maroney said USA Gymnastics "coerced" her into signing the deal because she was "in need of funds to pay for psychological treatment for her worsening psychological condition".

Nassar, who treated US gymnasts at four Olympics, pleaded guilty last month in Michigan to a total of 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct. Sentencing for seven of those counts is set for Jan 16.

Maroney, according to ESPN, provided a statement to the court despite not being among those Nassar was charged with abusing.

She was reported as saying he "abused my trust, abused my body and he left scars on my psyche that may never go away. He needs to be behind bars so he will never prey upon another child".

In all, Nassar is accused in civil lawsuits of sexually abusing more than 140 women during medical examinations.

Usag responded in a statement e-mailed to Reuters that the "concept of confidentiality was initiated by McKayla's attorney, not USA Gymnastics".

"In 2016, McKayla's attorney at the time, Gloria Allred, approached USA Gymnastics, requesting that the organisation participate in a confidential mediation process," it said.

"USA Gymnastics cannot speak to the mediation process, which is confidential and privileged under California law. The process culminated in a settlement agreement that included a mutual non-disclosure clause and a mutual non-disparagement clause.

"The settlement in 2016 was in accordance with state law, despite what has been alleged. At all times, McKayla was represented by Allred, a California-based attorney, who actively negotiated and approved the settlement agreement signed by McKayla."

Maroney could be open to a countersuit and US$100,000 in penalties for speaking of the abuse and the settlement, but Manley contends the settlement deal was illegal under California law.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline 'Maroney sues over 'coerced' silence vow'. Print Edition | Subscribe