Aly Raisman: ‘I was told to be quiet’ about abuse

Aly Raisman
Aly Raisman. –Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Aly Raisman told ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Tuesday that USA Gymnastics threatened her to be quiet when she first told the organization of the abuse by Larry Nassar. The six-time Olympic medalist said that she doesn’t know how the organization’s officials sleep at night after allowing Nassar to continue treating gymnasts even after they realized Raisman had been abused.

“I was told to be quiet,” Raisman told Outside the Lines. “And I think that when somebody in high power is telling you to be quiet, right when they realized you are abused, I think that that is a threat, and especially when their first concern should be to make sure I’m OK, to get information from me, to see if my other teammates were abused, to see what else I knew, to get to the bottom of it.”

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Raisman, a Needham native and three-time gold-medal winner, was responding to a statement USA Gymnastics released Monday.

“We are very sorry that any athlete has been hurt by the despicable crimes Larry Nassar committed,” the statement read. “Our hearts break for these athletes and we deeply admire their courage and strength in sharing their experiences.”

Raisman said, “Every single time they release a statement, it’s basically the same thing, saying they care and they’re… welcome to work with their athletes. But they don’t mean it.”

Nassar, the former national medical director for USA Gymnastics, pleaded guilty in November to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. On Tuesday in Michigan, a four-day sentencing hearing began that will hear impact statements from dozens of women and girls who were victims. The Michigan attorney general’s office is seeking at least 40 years in prison for the 54-year-old Nassar on the criminal sexual conduct counts. In December, he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

Raisman told Outside the Lines that she told the national governing body for the sport about Nassar, but USA Gymnastics did not reach out to help her or stop Nassar from treating other athletes.

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“The second that I realized, I told my mom and then we told USA Gymnastics,” Raisman said. “And, to me, it seemed like they threatened me to be quiet. You know, their biggest priority from the beginning and still today is their reputation, the medals they win and the money they make off of us. I don’t think that they care.”

“If they cared, then the second they realized that I was abused, they would have reached out, asked if I needed therapy, asked if I was OK, asked what they could have done and they would have — they would have made a big change. Instead, they allowed Larry to continue to work on little girls in Michigan and molest gymnasts for a very long time… I don’t know how they sleep at night.”

ESPN published a lengthy feature Tuesday outlining the web of people, from USA Gymnastics to medical professionals to administrators at Michigan State University, who enabled Larry Nassar’s predatory behavior. Raisman said that after she told the organization about the abuse, she was told USA Gymnastics was handling the situation and led to believe asking further questions would jeopardize the investigation.

“So I didn’t want to jeopardize anything,” Raisman said. “Come to find out, [USA Gymnastics] didn’t report it right away.”

Raisman also said that USA Gymnastics should stop sending its athletes to the Karyolyi ranch in Huntsville, Texas. The ranch, owned and operated by coaches Mart and Bela Karolyi, has been the training center for elite gymnasts since 2001. Gymnasts, including Raisman, say the atmosphere at the ranch allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue unchecked.

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“I hope USA Gymnastics listens because they haven’t listened to us so far,” Raisman said. “I hope they listen and I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch. No one should have to go back there after so many of us were abused there.”

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