McKayla Maroney spoke in public for the first time since the Larry Nassar scandal broke open, and the 22-year-old Olympian made it clear that she is still struggling to deal with the fallout from years of sexual abuse by the disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor. Maroney even said she sometimes wonders if her decorated career was “worth it,” but she emphasized that she is moving “forward” and seeking major changes from the institutions involved in the Nassar case.
Speaking Tuesday at an event hosted by the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Maroney called Nassar a “monster” and told the room of 250 attendees (via Time), “I never should have met him.”
“I at times question if my gymnastics career was really even worth it because of the stuff I’m dealing with now, because sometimes you’re just left in the dust,” Maroney said. “You have to pick up the pieces of your life. That has been the hardest part for me, but it’s always three steps forward, two steps back.”
Maroney, a member of the gold medal-winning 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, had previously issued written remarks about Nassar, including a Twitter post in October in which she accused Nassar of abusing her from when she was 13 up to her departure from the sport in 2016. She also provided a statement to be read in court by a Michigan prosecutor during a January sentencing hearing for Nassar at which over 150 other victims and family members confronted him in person, including a pair of Maroney’s 2012 teammates, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber.
Raisman has become a particularly scathing critic of USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, where Nassar was on staff for two decades, for what she has described as their roles in not only enabling his abuse over many years but creating a climate of fear and powerlessness among athletes. On Tuesday, Maroney said that “within the gymnastics world, there’s no question we need to rebuild from the ground up so this never happens again.”
“I definitely see a future where athletes are safe and succeeding. My team won gold medals in spite of USA Gymnastics, MSU, and the USOC,” Maroney said. “They don’t build champions, they break them. But we’re changing that.”
Major changes have taken place among the leadership of those bodies, including the resignations of the presidents of the USOC and MSU and of USAG’s entire board of directors. Maroney claimed (via CNN) that the institutions were only interested in “money, medals” and not the welfare of their athletes, saying they “demanded excellence from me, but they couldn’t give it to us.”
Maroney filed a lawsuit in December against USAG, claiming that a settlement she had previously reached with the organization improperly prevented her from speaking out against Nassar. On Tuesday, Wieber became the latest Olympian to sue the three institutions, joining Raisman and Jamie Dantzscher as well as Maroney, as Wieber decried “the lack of accountability from USAG and Michigan State [that] caused me and many other girls to remain shameful, confused, and disappointed.”
“We are deeply sorry for abuse the survivors suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar and are working to make sure that something like this can never happen again,” an MSU spokeswoman said in a statement. Nassar was sentenced in two Michigan courts to 40 to 175 years in prison, and he was also given a 60-year sentence by a federal court on charges related to child pornography.
Maroney credited the courtroom testimony of Raisman and Wieber, and before that, the outpouring of women’s tales of harassment and abuse that sprung the #MeToo movement, with helping her find her voice. “In a way, the fear turned to fearlessness when I knew it would help so many people,” she told the NYSPCC audience.
“I carried this secret around with me. A lot of people say it’s empowering to speak, and it really was.”
She described the process of healing from the scars inflicted by Nassar as “day by day,” but added, “If there is one thing gymnastics teaches you, it’s that you get up when you fall. We can’t give up [the fight] to end sexual abuse.”
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