McKayla Maroney questioned whether or not her star gymnastics career “was really even worth it” because of the fallout from her sexual abuse at the hands of team doctor Larry Nassar, she said Tuesday.
“I wasn’t listened to, cared about or believed, and all of those things need to be weeded out of society, because that’s where things went wrong,” she said.
The statements marked Maroney’s first public remarks since she revealed on her Twitter account in October that Nassar had sexually abused her. Her comments Tuesday came during a luncheon for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at The Pierre hotel in New York.
Maroney, now 22, won gold and silver at the 2012 Olympics as part of the USA Gymnastics team known as the “Fierce Five.”
But that success came at a cost. Nassar, the USA Gymnastics doctor, began abusing her when she was 13. The abuse continued at the Olympics and stopped only when she left the sport, Maroney said last year.
‘I carried this secret’
She said speaking out about her experience in October, amid the #MeToo movement, took a weight off her shoulders.
“In a way, the fear turned to fearlessness when I knew it would help so many people,” she said. “I carried this secret around with me. A lot of people say it’s empowering to speak, and it really was.”
In her remarks, Maroney also slammed USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University for protecting Nassar for so long.
“My team won gold medals in spite of” USA Gymnastics and the Olympic Committee, Maroney said. “They don’t build champions, they break them. But we’re changing that.”
Her gymnastics teammates Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber have also said Nassar abused them in his role with the team.
Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty in federal and state courts to charges of child pornography and criminal sexual conduct. As part of his guilty plea, he admitted using his power as a trusted doctor to sexually abuse young girls under the guise of providing medical treatment. He is currently in federal prison serving a 60-year sentence.
At his criminal trials in Michigan, nearly 200 girls and women came forward in remarkable testimony to speak about what Nassar did and how his abuse affected their lives. A victim impact statement written by Maroney was read in court, but she did not appear in person.
Dozens of those impact statements accused USA Gymnastics, the Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, where Nassar worked, of enabling his abuse and dismissing young women’s complaints against him.
Maroney said it was valuable to hear those statements and others in the #MeToo movement.
“With everything that I went through, it was almost hard to believe that it happened to me, and I almost have to hear over and over and over again to start to accept it,” she said.
The organizations have denied legal wrongdoing, and law enforcement investigators have begun working to learn how the abuse continued for so long.
“USAG, MSU and USOC continued to look away to protect their reputations. All they cared about was money, medals and it didn’t seem like anything else,” Maroney said. “They demanded excellence from me, but they couldn’t give it to us.”