It’s been three months since Larry Nassar was first sentenced to essentially a lifetime in prison for sexually abusing dozens of young gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment, and on Sunday night, 2012 Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney spoke to Dateline about Nassar’s molestation. During the interview, she revealed that in 2011 she told her coach and fellow teammates that Nassar sexually abused her. And yet, no one acted—in fact, as Maroney remembers it, one of her fellow gymnasts reprimanded her.
Maroney told Dateline that she first reported Nassar’s abuse after a particularly traumatizing encounter with him in a hotel room in Tokyo in October 2011. “That was the scariest night,” she said, describing how he’d given her sleep medication to take on her flight to Japan, then took her to his hotel room, where she “got worked on.”
“[It] was very, very hard for me not to acknowledge the fact that … this was not treatment. I was being abused,” she said. “I was bawling, naked on a bed, him on top of me, like fingering me. I thought I was going to die.”
When she rejoined her teammates that night, and the following day, she hoped someone would notice something was wrong. No one did. “I remember waking up the next day and wanting to tell someone — and hoping that someone would see it in my eyes that something really bad just happened to me, that they would ask me,” she said. Finally, she revealed Nassar’s abuse while in a vehicle with her teammates and coach, John Geddert, as they drove back to the hotel after practice. “I just said, ‘Last night, it was like Larry was fingering me,’” she said. “I said this loud.”
Though three people in the vehicle told Dateline they remembered Maroney saying this, it doesn’t appear that anyone reported it back to USA Gymnastics, and if they did, the organization took no action (and told Dateline they had no knowledge of the conversation). And Maroney said one of her teammates criticized her for making the claim against Nassar. “She was probably as confused as me,” Maroney conceded.
Maroney says Nassar started abusing her when she was only 13 years old, and that she received hundreds of “treatments” that she later realized were molestations. Nassar alternated these “treatments” with acts of kindness, like bringing Maroney treats during intense training periods, to groom her for abuse. “I was just like, ‘Wow, he really likes me and cares about me,’” she said.
Nassar’s abuse made Maroney anxious, depressed, and even suicidal, she said, and she knew he was abusing other young girls, too. But it wasn’t until 2015, when USA Gymnastics became aware of Nassar’s behavior, that she managed to get someone to listen to her. She told a counselor about what had happened to her, and later recounted his abuse to the FBI. Nassar wasn’t arrested until 2016. Had someone listened to her in 2011, dozens of victims could have been spared. “I’m appalled, I’m disgusted. I’m so upset that this happened for so long when there were so many signs and red flags,” she said.
Nassar has since pleaded guilty to a number of abuse-related charges and was sentenced to multiple prison terms, including a 60-year sentence in federal prison for child pornography; a 40 to 175-year state prison term for sexual assault of minors, and a 40 to 125-year prison term for further sexual assault charges. A number of members of USA Gymnastics have been suspended pending investigation into Nassar’s abuse, including Geddert, Maroney’s coach at the time of the Tokyo incident.