In 2012, McKayla Maroney was part of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, dubbed the “Fierce Five,” that won the team gold medal at the London Olympics. She also took home an Olympic silver medal on vault — and became an internet meme thanks to her “not impressed” face on the podium.
But behind the scenes in London, Maroney says the experience was far from a dream for her.
On Wednesday morning, the 21-year-old said she has been molested by Team USA doctor Larry Nassar — a long-time “god-like” figure in the USA gymnastics community who currently faces over 140 allegations of sexual abuse — since she was 13 years old. She released her story in a message on Twitter as part of the #MeToo movement, a viral campaign in which women have shared their own stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the wake of a flood of accusations against Harvey Weinstein.
“People should know this is not just happening in Hollywood. This is happening everywhere,” she wrote. “Wherever there is a position of power, there seems to be potential for abuse. I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary, and disgusting.”
Maroney says Nassar began molesting her when she was 13, and continued to do so “whenever and wherever [he] could find the chance” until she retired from the sport. Nassar told her he was performing “medically necessary treatment that he had been performing for over 30 years.”
When she was 15 years old, Maroney says that Nassar gave her a sleeping pill on an overnight flight to Tokyo, and when she woke up, she was alone with him in his hotel room being molested. “I thought I was going to die that night,” she said.
According to Maroney, Nassar molested her at the London Olympics, before she won a gold medal with the Fierce Five, and again before she won the silver medal on the vault.
— mckayla (@McKaylaMaroney) October 18, 2017
While Maroney did not go into details about Nassar’s “treatment” in her post, the majority of the allegations against Nassar follow a similar pattern.
(Content warning: this paragraph includes explicit details about the molestation allegations against Nassar.) Gymnasts say that Nassar would, without asking their consent and often without using gloves, penetrate their vaginas with his fingers. Sometimes their parents would be in the room, but Nassar would position them so the parents could not see what he was doing, according to multiple allegations. When asked about what he was doing, he allegedly told them it was a “myofascial release” massage. Nassar has also been accused of fondling gymnasts’ breasts and penetrating their anuses with his fingers.
In July, Nassar accepted a “stunning” plea deal related to child pornography charges. He currently awaits sentencing, but could receive as little as five years in prison. However, there are multiple civil and criminal cases ongoing against Nassar in several states regarding the allegations of sexual abuse.
Maroney is the most prominent gymnast so far to publicly detail allegations against Nassar.
While Nassar’s alleged abuse seems to have been the most widespread, he is only one part of the sexual abuse scandal that has enveloped the gymnastics community ever since the Indianapolis Star released an investigation last year reporting that USA Gymnastics covered up and enabled rampant sexual abuse.
More than 400 people have accused coaches or trainers with connections to USA Gymnastics of sexual abuse over the past 20 years.
The organization has been slow to respond to these reports, and even slower to act to fix things. USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny was never fired, though he finally resigned in March — with a $1 million severance in hand . Paul Parilla, the chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, is somehow still employed.