In a case that has unveiled some of the deepest and darkest parts of athletics, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee have agreed to pay a $380-million settlement to hundreds of survivors, all of whom were sexually abused by their former team doctor Larry Nassar.
NPR’s Joe Hernandez reported that “the two organizations and their insurers reached the agreement, which included a monetary payout as well as reforms at the organizations to prevent future abuse, on Monday, Dec. 13.”
In a statement, John C. Manly, an attorney representing some of the victims, said, “We prevailed for one simple reason — the courage and tenacity of the survivors. These brave women relived their abuse publicly, in countless media interviews, so that not one more child will be forced to suffer physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in pursuit of their dreams.”
“It is an excellent settlement for the survivors. It is a defeat for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, who spent over $100,000,000 in legal fees,” Manly added in a subsequent interview with NPR‘s All Things Considered. “Every American should be proud of these women for what they accomplished, not for a legal settlement, but for changing the face of the way we treat sex abuse survivors in this country — especially children.”
Following news of the settlement, Li Li Leung, President and CEO of USA Gymnastics, issued his own statement to the media, saying, “USA Gymnastics is deeply sorry for the trauma and pain that Survivors have endured as a result of this organization’s actions and inactions. We are committed to working with them and with the entire gymnastics community to ensure that we continue to prioritize the safety, health, and wellness of our athletes and community above all else.”
The settlement is said to have grown out of USA Gymnastics bankruptcy filings that started in 2018. In addition to the monetary settlement, an Indiana federal judge has also required the group to have at least one abuse survivor on its Board of Directors. USA Gymnastics will also be responsible for creating “a restorative justice process for victims, among other provisions.”
Rounding out the executive statements from those involved in the case, Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said she was grateful that a settlement was finally in place.
“We have the deepest respect for the tremendous strength and bravery these women have shown,” Hirshland said. “We recognize our role in failing to protect these athletes, and we are sorry for the profound hurt they have endured.”
Hernandez reported that “Nassar was the team doctor for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team and, for years, worked at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he later admitted to abusing multiple women and girls in a scandal that rocked the world of competitive gymnastics.”
Some of the top gymnasts in the sport’s history, including Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, ultimately came forward to detail the abuse they endured at the hands of their doctor.
“Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse in 2018 in a high-profile trial that saw many of his victims give emotional statements in court,” Hernandez reported. “The following month, he was sentenced to another 40 to 125 years behind bars after pleading guilty to molesting young gymnasts at a Michigan training facility. He had previously been given a 60-year sentence on federal child pornography charges.”
In a tweet on social media, Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to file a criminal complaint against Nassar, said she was happy with the verdict in the case and that this chapter of her life is “finally closed.”
“Now the hard work of reform and rebuilding can begin,” she wrote. “Whether or not justice comes and change is made depends on what happens next.”