Olympic Gymnasts Confront Disgraced Olympic Doctor Larry Nassar

Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has listened to about 80 people who were said they were molested after seeking Dr. Larry Nassar's help for injuries

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman stood in a Michigan courtroom Friday to face the disgraced sports doctor who she and more than 100 other athletes have said molested them, testifying in an impassioned speech that Larry Nassar "perpetrated the worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports."

Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has listened to about 80 women and girls, including the testimonies of Raisman and fellow Olympians McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber, describe not only the physical abuse they endured at the hands of Nassar but also the emotional scars he left behind.

(Warning: The testimony and statements included in the video above may be graphic in nature.)

"Realizing you are a survivor of sexual abuse is really hard to put into words," Raisman told the court. "I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I've regained my strength. I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor."

She explained that Nassar "manipulated and violated" her, including at the 2012 London Olympics, where she was a member of the "Fierce Five" with Maroney and Wieber.

"You have not taken gymnastics away from me," Raisman said. "I love this sport, and that love is stronger than the evil that resides in you, in those who enabled you to hurt many people. 

"I will not rest until every last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed like the cancer it is."

Raisman laid into USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee, saying the organizations ignored or dismissed concerns about the abuse. 

USA Gymnastics announced Thursday that it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch, where many athletes said the abuse took place. Raisman chastised USA Gymnastics for this decision, claiming that the organization "neglected to mention" that it still had athletes training at the facility at the same time the announcement was made.

USA Gymnastics responded to Raisman's claim, telling NBC in a statement that "the development camp taking place through Sunday is the last USA Gymnastics activity at the ranch." The organization did not include details of the current camp in its initial announcement, only saying that it "cancelled next week’s training camp."

Raisman added that no one from the organization has reached out to her or other victims to offer support, saying the silence is "like being abused all over again." USA Gymnastics did not respond to this claim.

Raisman called for Nassar to receive the maximum sentence and for an independent investigation to be conducted into the organizations he served.

"Abusers, your time is up," Raisman concluded. "Survivors are here standing tall, and we are not going anywhere."

Before Raisman took the stand, Wieber gave an emotional testimony on her experience as well, saying she was 8 years old when Nassar began treating her and 14 years old when he began molesting her.

"This is when he started performing the procedure we are all so familiar with," she said, "He did it time after time, appointment after appointment. I had no idea he was sexually abusing me for his own benefit. I knew it felt strange."

She claimed that Nassar was the only male allowed into hotel rooms with the athletes and had no supervision.

"Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of," Wieber added. "My parents trusted USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar to take care of me and we were betrayed by both."

She continued: "But even though I am a victim, I do not and will not live my life as one."

Maroney wrote a statement that was read by a prosecutor in the court Thursday, in which she said being sexually assaulted by Nassar scarred her mind in ways that may never heal.

"Dr. Nassar was not a doctor," said the 2012 Olympic gold and silver medalist. "He left scars on my psyche that may never go away."

USA Gymnastics in 2016 reached a financial settlement with Maroney that barred her from making disparaging remarks. But the organization this week said it would not seek any money for her "brave statements."

Aquilina started Thursday's proceedings by saying Nassar had written a letter fearing that his mental health wasn't strong enough to sit and listen to a parade of victims. The judge dismissed it as "mumbo jumbo."

"Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you've had at their expense, ruining their lives," Aquilina said.

Nassar, 54, faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls at Michigan State University and his home. He also was a team doctor at Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He's already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

A 2000 Olympian, Jamie Dantzscher, looked at Nassar and said, "How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness?"

"Your days of manipulation are over," she said. "We have a voice. We have the power now."

Nassar wasn't the only target. Victims also criticized Michigan State and USA Gymnastics. Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon attended part of the session Wednesday. The school is being sued by dozens of women, who say campus officials wrote off complaints about the popular doctor.

"Guess what? You're a coward, too," current student and former gymnast Lindsey Lemke said Thursday, referring to Simon.

Blocks away at the state Capitol, three legislative leaders on Thursday called for Simon to resign or be fired by the board of trustees, joining a fourth leading legislator who had previously taken that stance.

"It is clear that a lack of leadership amongst Michigan State University's highest ranks allowed victims to suffer in silence for far too long," said state House Democratic Leader Sam Singh, who is from East Lansing, where the school is located.

Facing pressure over how Michigan State University handled allegations made against Nassar when he was employed there, the school's board of trustees on Friday asked the state's attorney general to investigate but stood by Simon.

"Through this terrible situation, the university has been perceived as tone deaf, unresponsive and insensitive to the victims. We understand the public's faith has been shaken. The Board has listened and heard the victims," chairman Brian Breslin said after a closed-door meeting that lasted more than four hours. Trustees declined to answer reporters' questions.

During the sentencing hearing, the judge has been praising each speaker and criticizing Nassar, whom she described as a "monster" who is "going to wither" like the wicked witch in "The Wizard of Oz." At another point, Aquilina said she would allow someone "to do to him what he did to others" if the U.S. Constitution allowed cruel punishment.

Some experts believe the judge's comments could create an issue for appeal after Nassar is sentenced.

"Judges are human beings, too," said Victoria Vuletich, who teaches ethics at WMU-Cooley Law School. "And too often judges fall prey to the allure of the cameras and media attention and forget their roles."

On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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