AP NEWS

DeWitt’s Jordyn Wieber to testify before Senate panel

April 18, 2018

Washington — Olympic stars Jordyn Wieber and Jamie Dantzcher, retired gymnasts abused by Larry Nassar, will testify Wednesday afternoon before a U.S. Senate committee on the role of amateur sports organizations in protecting aspiring Olympians from sexual and other abuse.

The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Olympic Committee and amateur sports, will also hear from Bridie Farrell, a retired American speed skater, and Craig Maurizi, an American figure skater.

Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said the hearing represents the next step in the subcommittee’s bipartisan inquiry into “cultural and systemic problems” of abuse following the revelations that Nassar, formerly of Michigan State University, had sexually abused more than 150 women and girls over two decades – despite victims’ complaining to authorities about his behavior.

“I appreciate the incredible bravery of our witnesses and their willingness to be here to discuss these sensitive topics. You are all enormously talented and successful athletes who made your country proud but were taken for granted by the organizations you represented,” Moran said in remarks prepared for the hearing.

“You were let down by individuals you trusted but who chose to ignore you, to look the other way, or to deliberately cover up the abuses you suffered because their priority, simply put, was not your safety or well-being.”

Nassar of MSU and USA Gymnastics was sentenced this year to what amounts to life imprisonment earlier this year after admitting to sexually abusing girls and women under the guise of medical treatment and to possessing child pornography.

Wieber, a DeWitt native, on Tuesday became the latest gymnast to file a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and MSU, alleging they “enabled” Nassar to continue his alleged sexual abuse of young athletes.

Wieber was the 2011 national champion and member of the “Fierce Five” team that won the gold medal in London in 2012.

She claims she was repeatedly molested by Nassar from age 12 or 13 until she was 17 years old. Her suit, filed in Los Angeles, also alleges MSU and USA Gymnastics knew that Nassar was abusing children but failed to disclose that information to gymnasts or the public.

“I was not protected. My teammates were not protected,” Wieber, now a California resident and gymnastics coach at UCLA, said in a statement.

“My parents trusted USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar to take care of me and we were betrayed by both. And now, the lack of accountability from USAG and Michigan State, have caused me and many other girls to remain shameful, confused and disappointed.”

Dantzcher and gymnasts Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney have also sued the organizations with similar claims. Dantzcher, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, testified last year before the before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her abuse by Nassar.

“USA Gymnastics failed its most basic responsibility to protect the athletes under its care,” Dantzscher said through tears at the time.

Maroney submitted written testimony for Wednesday’s hearing but was not expected to appear in person, according to Moran.

Following Nassar’s sentencing, Moran and ranking Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sent questions to MSU, the USOC, USA Gymnastics and more than 50 amateur sports governing bodies, requesting data and records on their handling and prevention of sexual abuse in organized sports. Their responses have been posted on the subcommittee’s website.

Both the House Energy and Commerce and House Oversight and Government Reform committees are also investigating, as well as the U.S. Department of Education and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

President Donald Trump in February signed into law a bill requiring the sports governing bodies that train young amateur athletes to report suspected cases of abuse to authorities within 24 hours.

The law also designates the U.S. Center for SafeSport to develop, implement and enforce policies and training for the national governing bodies and their members to prevent the abuse of minors or amateur athletes.

One of those procedures would be to establish a mechanism to allow a complainant to “easily report an incident of sexual abuse.”

mburke@detroitnews.com