date of testimony: January 23th 2018
United States National Team
age of abuse: 14-19 years old
location of testimony: Lansing, Michigan
Thank you, Your Honor. Coming here today was no easy feat for me. I didn’t know if I would be able to do it, but I realize that I’m not the little girl I used to be. I have a voice now and it needs to be heard.
All I wanted to do as a kid was go to the Olympics. I was at the height of my career at 19 and the Olympics were just one year away, and I just couldn’t take any more of the abuse. I was broken. Larry, my coaches, and USA Gymnastics turned the sport I fell in love with as a kid into my personal living hell.
I was invited to my first national team camp at 13 years old. I was not yet a member of the national team but my coaches sent videos of me to Marta Karolyi asking if I could attend. After they received the okay, I remember my coaches telling me what an honor and privilege it was to be invited, but it didn’t feel that way to me.
I remember going there when I was 10 and 11 years old for the talent opportunity program, also known as TOPS camp. I called my parents on the pay phone crying every night asking them if I could come home. I knew, however, that I had to tough it out if I wanted to be an Olympian one day. From that first camp at ten years old I dreaded having to go back every single time for the next nine years.
The first time I distinctly remember Larry abusing me was at my first U.S. national championships in Minnesota. I was 14 and ended up not being able to compete because of an extremely painful hip injury. My coaches still insisted that I travel, telling me I was going to compete no matter what. I ended up barely being able to lift my foot off the ground a few days later. A teammate of mine from my club back in Los Angeles was competing there as well so my coaches were in the training gym with her every day while I was getting treatment from Larry during each practice in a separate room.
My injury was very close to my pelvic bone so when Larry put his fingers in my vagina for the first time, I innocently thought it was some sort of internal treatment for that specific injury. Almost each and every time I received treatment from Larry from that moment on he would molest me. This went on until I left the national team to compete for UCLA at 19 years old.
The thing is, however, that was the only injury I ever had that was remotely close to my genital region, yet no matter what Larry was supposed to be treating on me over the years, usually my ankles or my knees, his fingers always seemed to find their way inside of me, never once wearing gloves.
There was a camp where I sprained and dislocated both ankles at the same time. Larry checked out my x-rays saying I was fine. I was literally left crawling the rest of the camp or using a rolling office chair I found in the lounge to get around. He didn’t even wrap my feet for the flight back home. When my doctor checked my x-rays, I had a fracture. I simply cannot even get myself to consider you as a real doctor. Your priorities should have been my health, yet your priority was solely to molest me.
People have asked me why I didn’t tell anyone back then. There are many reasons. At the time it hadn’t quite registered to me that I was being molested. I still stay up now racking my brain wondering how I didn’t know. I was so confused.
Here’s this man who was supposed to be the most renowned doctor in the U.S. gymnastics community, was also charismatic, and one of the only nice adults I had in my life at the time. He would even give us candy or junk food, which is completely forbidden. I just couldn’t comprehend that someone like him could do something so awful.
On top of that, who was I going to tell? Certainly not my coaches who I was afraid of. I also didn’t tell my fellow teammates because the times he treated me at the ranch, besides when we were traveling and would get treatments in his room, it appeared — it happened to be in the same room as all of them, a lounge where we would watch t.v. on a big couch and the treatment tables were behind it. I figured if he is doing this in front of my friends, it can’t be that bad, right? Even the other trainer, Debbie VanHorn, who still now works for USA Gymnastics, would be in the room many of the times Larry abused me. If a trainer, a professional trainer, doesn’t say anything about it, I should trust her, at least that’s what I thought.
In the midst of all these adults who I was scared of, Larry, you were the only one I trusted.
In the end, you turned out to be the scariest monster of all.
There is an eery feeling as soon as you step foot onto the Koralyi Ranch. It is completely removed from all civilization. In the case of an emergency, the closest hospital is so far away you’d need to be helicoptered there. To get to the ranch you must drive up a dirt road for what seems like an eternity and the closest civilization is a high security prison 30 miles away.
On top of that, there is no cell service. It’s completely isolated, and that’s no mistake. That is how the Karolyis wanted it. We lived off the snacks that we had to sneak in our luggage. I eventually spiraled into a very intense and destructive eating disorder for six years. I took anywhere from five to 15 laxatives without missing a single day for those six years thinking that was the only way to stay skinny enough and, therefore, be liked by my coaches and the national team staff.
Depending on the day, I would have six or seven hour practices six days a week, hopefully getting a break if I was doing well enough that day, and I wouldn’t eat all day until practice was over.
I would even have days where I would go a whole practice without taking a sip of water until it was over and then gorge myself when I got home. Almost every day I felt like I would faint after each routine. I honestly don’t know how I managed not to.
Around the age of 15 or 16 I would start getting panic attacks before leaving to go to the ranch. One time I was so desperate not to go I thought faking an injury bad enough was the only way out. I was taking a bath when I decided to push the bathmat aside, splash water on the tiles, get on the floor, and bang the back of my head against the tub hard enough to get a bump so it seemed like I slipped. My parents immediately took me to the hospital because they thought I had a concussion. I was willing to physically hurt myself to get out of the abuse that I received at the ranch.
When I attended the next camp Marta Koralyi said, you know what, Kim Zmeskal fell out of the top bunk out of the cabins here and she didn’t miss practice the next day. She did not say another word to me for the rest of the camp. It makes me so sad to think about how desperate I was at that time feeling as if that was the only way I could ensure not having to go to camp.
2010 World Championships was an extremely low point for me. I made two major errors in my floor routine which cost us the gold medal. I was immediately shunned by my coaches, Marta, and some of the other staff that traveled with us. I could see the fear in my teammate Rebecca Bross’ face who was up next because I’m sure she was thinking that if she messed up as well, she would be in even more trouble than I was to be in. I wasn’t even allowed to give my parents a hug until I flew back home over a week later.
My fellow teammates on the trip, who were Rebecca, Aly Rasmussen, Chelsea Davis, Alicia Sacramone, Mackenzie Caquatto, and Bridgette Sloan did what they could to lift my spirits telling me it was going to be okay, but that was not the case for many of the adults there. I have never felt so small and disposable in my life.
I spiraled into a deep depression. It truly bothers me that one of the adults who treated me this way, making me feel completely invisible, is the new national team coordinator, Valeri Liukin. It troubles me that he is now in that position, and I hope for the sake of the current and future national team members, he has changed.
The complete detachment from the outside world on top of careless and neglectful adults made the ranch the perfect environment for abusers and molesters to thrive, but thanks to the women who have spoken here, that horrible place has been closed.
However, I am hoping that another critical step will be made as well.
Last March I traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with Senator Dianne Feinstein to tell her my story along with some of my fellow survivors. I then attended the hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee which led to the introduction of legislation to require Olympic governing bodies, including USAG, to immediately report sexual abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement agencies. I was shocked to learn that this law did not already exist. It has passed the Senate but hasn’t even come up for a vote in the House of Representatives yet. Today I ask speaker Paul Ryan to schedule this for a vote immediately. It’s not only about switching to a better location, we must ensure that legal steps are made to prevent anything of this nature and magnitude from happening again.
I recently learned that Michigan State received repeated reports beginning in 1998 from numerous girls and women alleging Larry sexually assaulted them. If the right thing was done then, 20 years ago, I should have never met this sad excuse for a man. I was extremely disappointed to find out about this news.
I’ve also learned that from 2014 to 2016 Larry was under criminal investigation for molesting young girls and women. President Simon, you didn’t call, you didn’t notify USAG, you and Michigan State let him go to the ranch and attend international competition. There he molested my friends and my teammates. How could you? What’s wrong with you? Have you no decency, ma’am?
Marta, did you keep Larry around because he was a good doctor or did you really keep him around because he let us compete when we were injured and was willing to keep your secrets?
Larry, I trusted you. I believed you were a kind person. I believed you were on my side. I thought you cared about me and my well-being. We would joke around and you would even listen when I’d tell you how mean my coaches and Marta was. I truly thought you understood.
You took complete advantage of my innocence. Your kindness was simply a ploy to molest me every chance you got. I can’t even put into words how much I fucking hate you.
Your Honor, I stand behind my former teammates and survivors who have asked you to give Larry the maximum possible sentence. No accolade or award is worth enduring abuse. There is another way, a healthy and supportive way to make champions.
THE COURT: Ma’am, thank you so much. You are a champion. Your words are gold. You are not invisible. Your words are enormous and have sent a message all the way to the federal government, and I think that now you’re going to hear many more people contacting the House and saying, past that law, so you are so strong and brave, and you are not broken. You are glued back together perfectly.
MS. LARSON: Thank you, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Thank you for being part of the sister survivors. Your voice means everything.
MS. LARSON: Thank you.