An elite sports medicine doctor who had been the physician for the U.S. gymnastics team and was recently accused of sexual assault by two former patients is now facing allegations made by 16 more women. Larry Nassar had working with U.S. Gymnastics for nearly three decades and was also employed as an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University. He left his job with U.S. Gymnastics last year and was reportedly fired from the university job last week.
According to his accusers, several of whom The Indy Star newspaper spoke with, Nassar repeatedly sexually abused them while ostensibly providing medical treatment for injuries. The women say Nassar performed a procedure that involved vaginal penetration with his fingers. Some of the women were as young as 13 years old when the alleged abuse occurred. Nasser has not been charged with a crime and maintains his innocence. His lawyers have admitted that a procedure he’s performed on patients meets the legal definition of vaginal penetration, according to the law in Michigan, where the accusations have been made. His lawyers said one technique he’s used “includes the slightest penetration between the labia of the vagina,” but medical experts say the technique being described is a rarely-used method that requires doctors to follow a strict protocol, particularly when patients are below the age of 18. According to that protocol, among other things, a parent or guardian must be made aware of the specifics of the procedure and must give consent and be in the room when it takes place.
The women The Indy Star spoke with all said they were uncomfortable undergoing the procedure, but never questioned Nassar because of his reputation as a top doctor in the field. They say he performed the technique while alone with them. “He was like this hero in sports medicine, especially for gymnastics, because the injuries and type of stress you’re putting on your body are so different than any other sport,” one woman said. “A trainer and doctor for the U.S. Olympic team accessible in Michigan — it was like, everyone thought it was amazing.” Some of the women have alleged that Nassar became sexually aroused during the procedure. “When I was 13, I didn’t know what ‘fingering’ was,” one woman who spoke to the paper said. “I presumed his sexual behavior was clinical.”
The first two accusations against Nasser surfaced around the end of August and into early September. Rachael Denhollander, an Olympic medalist, filed a lawsuit against Nasser in California and a complaint in Michigan, alleging that he sexually abused her five times in 2000 while he was treating her for back pain. She also says U.S. Gymnastics has been aware of the accusations against Nassar, but failed to do anything about them because officials worried a sex scandal would jeopardize fundraising efforts. For more on those initial allegations, watch the video below.
Read the full story at The Indy Star.