Gymnasts target MSU as Nassar plea nears
Now that a day of reckoning is arriving for former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, some want to make sure university officials have their day too.
That’s why three women who allegedly were sexually assaulted by Nassar plan Wednesday to call again for an investigation into MSU’s role in one of the biggest scandals in sports history.
They plan to sound the alarm after Nassar enters an expected guilty plea Wednesday in Ingham County Circuit Court to charges of sexually assaulting gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment.
Nassar also is expected to enter a guilty plea to additional charges Nov. 29 in Eaton County Circuit Court. Between the two counties, he’s been charged with 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
They gymnasts plan Wednesday to allege that MSU administrators could have stopped Nassar if they had addressed complaints about him that emerged at the university in 1997 or they had followed Title IX mandatory reporting laws instead of fumbling a 2014 report that allowed him to escape scrutiny.
They also plan to call for a release of a $1 million taxpayer-funded report on an internal review of the Nassar scandal that has not been released – saying MSU’s secret report contrasts with Penn State University’s response to the scandal surrounding Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of sexually abusing boys.
Among the three who will speak is Rachael Denhollander, who opened a floodgate of allegations from dozens of other women when she reported Nassar to MSU in 2016 and told her story to the Indianapolis Star.
“MSU has shown deliberate and callous indifference to sexual abuse and the role they played in keeping an abuser on power,” said Denhollander. “Their words about care and holding enablers of abuse accountable are hollow. They have utterly failed to show leadership and have demonstrated nothing but a desire to protect their own interests, no matter the cost to victims.”
MSU officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.
After months of maintaining his innocence and scores of women come forward with allegations, Nassar, 54, is expected to plead guilty. In exchange, the Attorney General’s office has agreed not to press more charges against him involving dozens of other women who allege he sexually abused them when they were girls, a source told The Detroit News.
He will get a minimum prison sentence of at least 25 years, versus the possibility of a life sentence if he went to trial as scheduled Dec. 4, according to the source.
The state charges are only a small part of the Nassar scandal: More than 140 women have filed civil lawsuits against him and more than 100 have complained to MSU officials. Most allege he digitally penetrated them without a glove, lubricant or consent.
Several Olympic champion gymnasts also have spoken on social media, including three-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, who said Tuesday on Instagram that she had been assaulted by Nassar.
Additionally, Nassar will be sentenced on Dec. 7 in federal court after pleading guilty to possessing 37,000 images of child pornography.
The two others expected to speak with Denhollander include Lindsey Lemke, a current member of MSU Women’s Gymnastics Team, and Kaylee Lorincz, an 18-year-old Adrian College gymnast who is speaking publicly for the first time.
The call for MSU accountability from the three gymnasts will come after months of calls for transparency about MSU’s role in the Nassar scandal.
“With (Nassar) coming forward and admitting to what he did, what is MSU going to do?” said Larissa Boyce, who told former MSU head gymnastics coach Kathie Klages in 1997 she felt uncomfortable with Nassar’s treatments but wasn’t believed.
“What are the enablers going to do in response to this?” Boyce continued. “Are they going to be held accountable? That is a huge question in my mind. MSU knew back in 1997 but I was told that I was wrong. Are they going to come forward and accept the responsibility they had by turning a blind eye or being culpable to allowing this to happen for so long?”
Boyce isn’t among those who will speak Wednesday but she share the sentiments of the three former gymnasts.
“We don’t have answers about why (MSU officials) aren’t being held accountable like they were at Penn State,” Boyce said. “What’s different? Is it because we’re girls?”