National News

Gymnast McKayla Maroney was paid to keep quiet about abuse, lawsuit says

Posted December 20, 2017 1:55 p.m. EST
Updated December 20, 2017 4:53 p.m. EST

— Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Wednesday that USA Gymnastics paid her to be quiet about abuse by the team's longtime doctor Larry Nassar.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, also names as defendants Michigan State University, the US Olympic Committee and Nassar, the former team doctor who has admitted to sexually abusing underage girls.

USA Gymnastics said it needed to read the lawsuit first before commenting. CNN is seeking comment from the other defendants.

No other athletes who leveled accusations against the 54-year-old Nassar were asked or compelled to sign confidential settlement agreements, according to Stu Mollrich, a representative of the law firm behind Maroney's suit.

"In December of 2016, after suffering for years from psychological trauma of her sexual abuse at the hands of Nassar, and in need of funds to pay for psychological treatment," Maroney was forced to enter into a confidential agreement with USA Gymnastics, the lawsuit said.

Maroney: Abuse began at 13

The suit said the gymnast "was forced to agree to a non-disparagement clause and confidentiality provision" as part of the settlement that held "a six-figure liquidated damages clause over the head of McKayla Maroney and her parents.

Maroney went public in October with allegations that Nassar repeatedly molested her, starting when she was 13 years old.

On her verified Twitter account, Maroney made the accusation under the "#MeToo" hashtag, saying that Nassar abused her under the guise of providing "medically necessary treatment." That "treatment" began when she was 13, continued during her stellar performance at the 2012 London Olympics and only ended when she left the sport in 2016, Maroney said.

"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," she wrote.

At the time, USA Gymnastics said it "admires the courage of those, like McKayla Maroney, who have come forward to share their personal experiences with sexual abuse."

"Because of their strength in coming forward, predators can be held accountable for their actions. We, like so many others, are outraged and disgusted by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career."

But the lawsuit alleges the confidentiality provision was forced upon Maroney so that "USAG could further conceal and shield from public scrutiny, outside investigation, and law enforcement, the true nature of Nassar's horrific sexual abuse of minors."

In addition, the suit alleged that USAG had "a plan to keep the sexual abuse of Nassar quiet, and allow Nassar to quietly leave USAG; further silencing his victims."

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges earlier this month. In November, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and admitted to using his position to sexually abuse underage girls.