date of testimony: January 18th 2018
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
age of first abuse: 13-14
Olympic Gold medalist, London
Court official reading a statement on behalf of McKayla and her mother Erin
MS. POVILAITIS: I want the court to know that in December I had the opportunity — I’m going to be speaking for Ms. McKayla Maroney, and in December I had the opportunity to spend some time with her mom, Erin Maroney, and to meet McKayla, and I hope that they’re watching somewhere and, again, I am so privileged to speak on their behalf and I’m glad they’ve asked me to do this.
Dear Judge Aquilina, for as long as I can remember gymnastics was my life. As a child my mom said, I need to put this child in gymnastics to tire her out. You could say I was in gymnastics from the age of 18 months. I’ve always felt comfortable in the gym, sort of my home away from home. I was seven years old for my first competition.
I remember getting ready for the meet. I got my hair braided with a cool bow and some sparkles. I got to wear this really awesome leo and wore a matching warm up. Life was good. I looked good. And I was pretty certain that one day I would be heading off to the Olympics.
The Olympics is something that brings people hope and joy. It inspires people to fight for their dreams because anything is possible with hard work and dedication.
I remember watching the 2004 Olympics. I was eight years old and I told myself that one day I would wear that red, white, and blue leotard and compete for my country.
Sure, from the outside looking in it’s a remarkable and amazing story. I did it. I got there. But not without a price.
I made the United States National Team at the age of 14 and began to compete throughout the world for my country. When I first met Larry Nassar he was the doctor for our national team and our Olympic team. I was told to trust him, that he would treat my injuries, and make it possible for me to achieve my Olympic dreams.
Doctor Nassar told me that I was receiving, quote, medically necessary treatment that he had been performing on patients for over 30 years, end quote.
As it turns out, much to my surprise, Doctor Nassar was not a doctor. He, in fact, was and forever shall be a child molester, a monster of a human being, end of story. He abused my trust. He abused my body, and he left scars on my psyche that may never go away.
It all started when I was 13 or 14 years old at one of my first national team training camps in Texas and it didn’t end until I left the sport.
It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was, quote, treated, end quote. It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver medal.
For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He had given me a sleeping pill for the flight and the next thing I know I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a, quote, treatment. I thought I was going to die that night.
Because the national team training camps did not allow parents to be present, my mom and dad were unable to observe what Nassar was doing and this has imposed a terrible and undeserved burden of guilt on my loving family.
Larry Nassar deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, not only because of what he did to me, my teammates, and so many other little girls, he needs to be behind bars so he will never prey upon another child.
I urge you to impose the maximum sentence upon him. Ever since I went public with my story I have been inspired and uplifted by the love and support of my former teammates, fans, and many other good people. People should know that sexual abuse of children is not just happening in Hollywood, in the media, or in the halls of Congress. This is happening everywhere. 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 I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting.
I was deeply saddened by the stories of my fellow Olympic teammates that suffered as I did at the hands of Larry Nassar. More than 140 women and girls had to say #MeToo to Nassar’s sexual assault and hundreds more were victimized to create the pornographic images that fueled his evil desires.
A question that has been asked over and over, how could Larry Nassar have been allowed to assault so many women and girls for more than two decades? The answer to that question lies in the failure of not one but three major institutions to stop him; Michigan State University, United States Gymnastics Association, and the United States Olympic Committee.
When my story became public, the U.S. Olympic Committee said, quote, each doctor working with our athletes undergoes background checks including an evaluation of medical licensure actions. Unfortunately, this predator was not identified by any organization during the time in question, unquote.
Reports to the nation’s leading newspapers and media outlets document credible claims that Michigan State University trainers and coaches received complaints about Nassar going back to the late 1990s. These complaints were ignored. Nassar was not even licensed to practice medicine in Texas yet he, quote, treated, end quote, and abused girls at the Koralyi Ranch Olympic training center in Huntsville, Texas, for more than 15 years.
In 2014 Nassar was the subject of a Michigan State University investigation based on additional complaints of sexual misconduct. This botched investigation concluded that Nassar’s actions, which he has now admitted were sexual assaults, were legitimate medical treatments. He was allowed to go back to work at Michigan State University and continue molesting girls.
USA Gymnastics and the USA Olympic Committee were never informed of this investigation. When other Olympic and national team athletes complained to USA Gymnastics about Larry Nassar in 2015, he was allowed to retire as the Olympic team doctor and Michigan State was never informed of the complaints made against him. He returned to Michigan State University and let — and allegedly continued to molest young girls until he was finally arrested nearly a year later.
A simple fact is this, if Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and the USA Olympic Committee had paid attention to any of the red flags in Larry Nassar’s behavior, I never would have met him. I never would have been treated by him. I never would have been abused by him.
It is my hope that federal and state law enforcement agencies will not close the book on the Nassar scandal after he receives his just punishment. It is time to hold the leadership of Michigan State University, United States Gymnastics, and the United States Olympic Committee accountable for allowing and, in some cases, enabling his crimes.
Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it is time to take our power back. Thank you. Signed, McKayla Maroney
THE COURT: Thank you. And thank you, McKayla. I think you’ve just taken your power back along with your sister survivors. Your voice for change and accountability is being heard.
And also I’m hopeful that her words have not fallen on deaf ears with the Olympic committee. She brings home medals to the United States. They need to listen to her. She was abused, and I’m hoping that what they do — because their statement falls short, I think that’s why she included it. She’s not here so I can’t ask her, but her statement really says to me, anyway, that the Olympic committee should have included that we will change our procedures, look deeper, and include allowing parents. I was not aware that parents were not allowed to be there. I’m not sure why that is. I don’t know how that helps the Olympics and clearly now it has hurt them.
So her voice echos loudly on behalf of all sports and the victims here. It resonates with this court, and yet I’ve heard another crime, criminal sexual conduct against an incapacitated victim, something else that could have been charged.
I know it is a global settlement, global plea. There are so many more crimes here that were committed. More crimes doesn’t help the victims. I thank and applaud her mother and McKayla for her statement, a very brave public statement. Please let her know, and I hope that she’s watching.