The Larry Nassar/USA Gymnastics story already was a grand-scale scandal by late 2016, as gymnastics schools reacted to news that coaches and trainers they had once employed were being accused of horrifying crimes. One of those gyms, the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, had employed a coach named Ray Adams, who later pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges and no contest to molestation charges after years of accusations lodged against him by the parents of young gymnasts across the country.

Mary Lee Tracy, owner of Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, was asked for comment on Adams by WCPO-TV in December 2016, about a month after the Indianapolis Star published the results of its investigation into his crimes. She said that in 2000, when she hired him, “people didn’t do [background checks] as often” and that she “never really felt a need to,” though she wished she had done so in hindsight.

Tracy, a U.S. Olympic coach, also was asked about Nassar, the U.S. Olympic team doctor who had worked with the Olympic team members who came out of her Cincinnati academy, including 1996 gold medalists Amanda Borden and Jaycie Phelps. One month before her interview with WCPO, prosecutors in Michigan had charged Nassar with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13 after receiving about 50 complaints from victims alleging sexual abuse. That August, he also had been sued in California by a former Olympic medalist who alleged Nassar sexually abused her from 1994 to 2000, and in September he had been fired by Michigan State, where he was an associate professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and an athletic trainer.

Tracy spoke highly of him, nonetheless.

“My Olympians have all worked with Larry,” Tracy told WCPO. “We were all defending him because he has helped so many kids in their careers. He has protected them, taken care of them, worked with me and worked with their parents. He’s been amazing.”

On Tuesday, USA Gymnastics announced that it had named Tracy as its new elite development coordinator, a position in which she will “oversee the developmental pipeline for women’s gymnastics.” The move sparked outrage on Twitter from Rachael Denhollander, one of the first gymnasts to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse in September 2016, three months before Tracy’s comments to WCPO.

Six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, who also has revealed she was abused by Nassar, echoed similar sentiments.

In response, Tracy told USA Today that her 2016 comments were merely about her own experience with Nassar and not about the accusations levied against him.

“They wanted to know my experience with Larry Nassar. That’s what I shared. At that point, that’s what was my truth and my experience, that he had only helped my athletes,” Tracy said.

She also told WCPO on Thursday that she had been fooled by a “master manipulator” in Nassar but decried what she called “cyber bullying,” saying she would resign from the USA Gymnastics post if the criticism lodged against her did not stop. Tracy added that she had received three “fairly threatening emails” and one that said she “should be in a jail cell next to Larry Nassar.”

“What I feel I need to say is that when I saw Aly putting out some things about something I said two years ago as this was all coming out, that was my truth,” Tracy said about her 2016 comments about Nassar.

“Larry had been treating my athletes for well over 25 years and had served them very well and had helped me and my athletes return to action,” she said Thursday.  “He had been someone that we all unfortunately had trusted and depended on, so when I was asked about my experience with him, that’s what I said. So I’m not denying that I said that.

“Would I say that anymore? Absolutely not … The man is a monster. But at that moment, I looked at him like I would my dad or my brother. That was the level of trust I had.”

Nassar eventually was accused of sexual abuse by more than 350 girls and women. He almost certainly will spend the rest of his life in prison after he either pleaded guilty to or was convicted of numerous sexual assault and child pornography charges.

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