All week, women have been giving harrowing impact statements at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the former U.S. Gymnastics team doctor who is accused of sexually abusing more than 140 people, many of whom were children at the time of the abuse. Many of those women are stars who have competed for the U.S. at the Olympic Games, including McKayla Maroney, whose impact statement was read aloud in court Thursday.
“For as long as I can remember, gymnastics was my life,” Maroney wrote. “As a child, my mom said, ‘I need to put this child in gymnastics, to tire her out.’ You could say I was in gymnastics since the age of 18 months. I’ve always felt comfortable in the gym, sort of my home away from home. I was 7 years old for my first competition. I remember getting ready for the meet. I got my hair braided with a cool bow and some sparkles. I got to wear this really awesome leo and wore a matching warm-up. Life was good, I looked good… and I was pretty certain that one day I’d be heading off to the Olympics!”
Maroney continued, “The Olympics is something that brings people hope and joy. It inspires people to fight for their dreams, because anything is possible with hard work and dedication. I remember watching the 2004 Olympics. I was 8 years old, and I told myself that one day I would wear that red, white and blue leotard and compete for my country. Sure, from the outside looking in, it’s a remarkable and amazing story. I did it. I got there, but not without a price. I made the U.S. National Team at the age of 14 and began to compete throughout the world for my country. When I first met Larry Nassar, he was the doctor for our National team and our Olympic team. I was told to trust him, that he would treat my injuries and make it possible for me to achieve my Olympic dreams. Dr. Nassar told me that I was receiving ‘medically necessary treatment that he had been performing on patients for over 30 years.’
“As it turns out, much to my demise, Dr. Nassar was not a doctor; he in fact was, and forever shall be, a child molester, and a monster of a human being. End of story! He abused my trust, he abused my body and he left scars on my psyche that may never go away. It all started when I was 13 or 14 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport. It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated.’ It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver medal.
“For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment.’ I thought I was going to die that night. Because the National Team training camps did not allow parents to be present, my mom and dad were unable to observe what Nassar was doing, and this has imposed a terrible and undeserved burden of guilt on my loving family.
“Larry Nassar deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. Not only because of what he did to me, my teammates and so many other little girls. He needs to be behind bars so he will never prey upon another child. I urge you to impose the maximum sentence upon him.”
Maroney also addressed the organizations that were made aware of complaints against Nassar but never stopped him. She specifically called out Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee, saying each organization deserves to be held accountable for its role in allowing Nassar’s abusive behaviors to continue.
“Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it’s time to take our power back,” she ended her statement.
Nassar pleaded guilty to just seven accounts of criminal sexual assault in November. At his sentencing, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has allowed any of his victims who wish to speak to do so, and more than 100 signed up. Testimonies have been given at the hearing all week.
Maroney’s speech is particularly poignant because she signed a nondisclosure agreement when she settled with USA Gymnastics in 2016, meaning she could be subject to a $100,000 fine for her statement, which was read at Nassar’s sentencing. In a statement to E! News, USA Gymnastics claimed it “has not sought and will not seek any money from McKayla Maroney for her brave statements made in describing her victimization and abuse by Larry Nassar, nor for any victim impact statements she wants to make to Larry Nassar at this hearing or at any subsequent hearings related to his sentencing.”
Nassar’s hearing is expected to extend into next week to allow all of his victims time to speak. He still faces sentencing in another county, where he pleaded guilty to three more counts of molestation.