Donald Trump

Jordyn Wieber, Other Athletes Testify to Senate on Systemic Abuse in Sports

One athlete said his story is one of authority figures who "silence powerless child victims of sexual abuse in the relentless pursuit of money and medals"

Olympic gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Jamie Dantzscher, who have both accused former Dr. Lary Nassar of sexual assault, testified before Congress Wednesday about the need to protect athletes from the pervasive abuse in sports, calling on lawmakers to hold athletic organizations accountable for continued misconduct.

Wieber and Dantzscher, along with speedskater Bridie Farrell and figure skater Craig Maurizi, spoke to members of the Senate Commerce Committee about their own abuse and suggested changes to keep athletes safe in the future.

Wieber, who was on the "Fierce Five" team that won gold in 2012, told the committee that the abuse she experienced "caused me to feel shame and confusion" and that she was "betrayed by everyone" involved. She said that she felt if she questioned Nassar's treatment, she would not be considered for Olympic or national competitions.

She called on Congress to hold USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, Nassar's places of employment, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee accountable for hiding Nassar's continued sexual abuse of athletes from the public and law enforcement. She also said there needs to be more representation of young athletes in the governing organizations so they can better advocate for the athletes.

Wieber filed a lawsuit in California Tuesday against USAG and MSU, saying the abuse spanned between 2006 and 2012, her medical records were destroyed and she and her teammates "were not protected."

"Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of," Wieber had said at Nassar's January sentencing hearing. "My parents trusted USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar to take care of me and we were betrayed by both."

Nassar worked for USA Gymnastics treating young athletes for nearly three decades. Though the organization said it fired him in 2015 and alerted law enforcement "after learning of athlete concerns," Nassar continued to work as a physician at Michigan State University through September 2016 and then shortly after was indicted on sexual assault charges and arrested for having thousands of images of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography, as well as seven counts of sexual abuse, and is now serving his first sentence in an Arizona prison.

Wieber's "Fierce Five" teammate McKayla Maroney is also speaking out, submitting a written testimony to the hearing. She also is making her first public comments since accusing Nassar of abuse last year, sitting down with NBC's Savannah Guthrie and claimed Nassar molested her "hundreds" of times, "every time I saw him," she said.

Dantzscher was a bronze medalist on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team and was part of the initial wave of lawsuits filed against Nassar in 2016. She filed the suit as "Jane Doe" but later gave up her anonymity for "60 Minutes" and described how she was sent to visit Nassar to receive treatment for lower back pain.

Dantzscher said she saw Nassar for treatment regularly from her early teens until the Olympics, when she was 18, telling the committee that he "abused me all over the world." Dantzscher said typically she saw Nassar alone, which is in violation of USAG policy.

She said that the abuse was "allowed to happen" because USAG, MSU and the USOC "kept Larry Nassar's secret, they failed to speak up and they let Nassar assault children."

"This is a case of powerful people protecting other powerful people," Dantzscher said.

She said there needs to be better education for the men and women who handle and touch the athletes during training, explaining that the inappropriate ways Nassar touched her in the gym seemed to be considered "normal."

Farrell detailed the abuse she faced at the hands of skater Andy Gabel when she was teen in the late 90s. Gabel was in his 30s at the time. She said officials at USOC and U.S. Speedskating knew of Gabel's sexual misconduct and did nothing, leaving her to live with the pain of the abuse for years after.

Gabel had admitted to the Chicago Tribune "an inappropriate relationship with a female teammate," but denied having sex with her.

Farrell also suggested to the committee that there be better representation of athletes, and she demanded as well that police be notified when misconduct is found, slamming governing organizations for not reporting abuse. 

"How are we still living in an age of the fox guarding the hen house?" Farrell said.

Maurizi said he was abused about 40 years ago when he was a 13-year-old figure skater. He claimed that although he reported the abuse 20 years ago, U.S Figure Skating only suspended coach Richard Callaghan from his job in March. 

Callaghan initially denied the claims, and when asked about the allegations in March after his suspension, Callaghan told ABC News: "That's 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say."

Maurizi said his story is one of authority figures who "silence powerless child victims of sexual abuse in the relentless pursuit of money and medals." He added that those figures will only come forward with allegations if they are scared of the consequences if they don't.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us