Jordyn Wieber became the latest Olympian to accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse Friday, speaking during the disgraced physician’s sentencing hearing in Lansing, Mich.
“I thought that training for the Olympics would be the hardest thing I would ever have to do. But the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is process that I am a victim of Larry Nassar,” said Wieber, 22, who was part of the gold-medal winning team at the 2012 Summer Games in London. Wieber became the fourth member of that team — dubbed the “Fierce Five” — to assert abuse by Nassar, including McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, who joined Wieber in court Friday, and also addressed Nassar.
Wieber described how Nassar established a friendship with her and her teammates, bringing them coffee and food when they were in the midst of intense dieting, which she later recognized as grooming techniques. The abuse started when she sought treatment for a hamstring injury, Wieber said, and continued for years, during what she thought was legitimate pain therapy.
“He did it time after time, appointment after appointment … The worst part is I had no idea he was abusing me,” Wieber said.
A Lansing area native, Wieber came up as a young gymnastic training at Twistars, a local club named in dozens of lawsuits filed by Nassar victims, along with Michigan State University, where Nassar worked for years, as well as USA Gymnastics, where Nassar volunteered his services treating Team USA women. Nassar was permitted to treat Wieber and other gymnasts alone on the road at travel events in his hotel room, Wieber said, and often took pictures of her and her teammates.
“To this day, I still don’t know how he could have been allowed to do this for so long,” said Wieber, who was the latest woman to assert oversight failures at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State allowed abuse to occur. Former USA Gymnastics chief executive Steve Penny resigned last March under criticism for his handling of a 2015 complaint about Nassar.
On Friday — amid growing calls from lawmakers and local newspapers in Michigan for the resignation of president Lou Anna Simon — Michigan State’s board of trustees asked the state Attorney General’s office to conduct an independent review of the school’s culpability for Nassar’s crimes. Michigan State and USA Gymnastics are contesting lawsuits filed by more than 130 women and girls who assert abuse by Nassar.
Raisman, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, also addressed Nassar Friday morning. Like Wieber, Raisman initially had not planned to speak during Nassar’s sentencing, but said she changed her mind after watching earlier this week as other victims described their abuse and the impact on their lives.
“Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over a long period of time are now a force, and you are nothing … the tables have turned, Larry. We are here, we have our voices, and we are not going away,” said Raisman, who was strongly critical of USA Gymnastics — which she said was “rotting from the inside” — and the United States Olympic Committee, and called for an independent investigation of the Olympic sports organizations for their role in Nassar’s abuse.
Last year, USA Gymnastics conducted an independent internal review of its child protection policies, but has rejected calls for any review of the organization’s specific handling of Nassar and any complaints or concerns about his conduct over the years. The USOC has said it first became aware of potential abuse by Nassar in 2015, when USA Gymnastics has said it first became aware and contacted the FBI.
“We are heartbroken that this abuse occurred, proud of the brave victims that have come forward and grateful that our criminal justice system has ensured that Nassar will never be able to harm another young woman,” USOC spokesman Mark Jones said in a statement.
Wieber is among more than 70 women and girls who have spoken during Nassar’s lengthy sentencing hearing, which began Tuesday and is expected to stretch into next week before a judge determines his sentence. Nassar, 54, has pleaded guilty to seven sexual assaults, and faces a minimum 25-year term when the hearing concludes. He also faces a 60-year term for federal child pornography crimes, which he is appealing.