(Reuters) – Gymnast Kyla Ross said on Thursday she too was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, becoming the last member of the so-called Fierce Five team that won gold for the United States at the 2012 London Olympics to speak openly about being a victim of the former national team doctor.
In interview with “CBS This Morning,” Ross and 2016 Olympic team gold medalist Madison Kocian said a “culture of silence” within USA Gymnastics had allowed Nassar to prey on young athletes for years.
Nassar, a doctor for USA Gymnastics and former faculty member and physician at an on-campus clinic at Michigan State University, was sentenced in February to up to 125 years in prison after some 200 young women testified about decades of abuse at his hands.
He had already received a sentence up to 175 years in a neighbouring Michigan county, and was sentenced to a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions.
“Being on national team for all those years, we were really silenced. We didn’t really have a voice and say as athletes,” Ross told CBS.
The other members of the Fierce Five; Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney, had previously revealed being abused by Nassar.
Many victims testified that Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment while on his examination table, sometimes hiding it from view of parents waiting nearby.
“It was almost like a family member,” Kocian said of their relationship with Nassar. “And he would on international trips, he would bring us food.
“Or he would just kind of be the person that would always ask, ‘how are you doing?’ Because the culture that was at the Karolyi Ranch was a culture of fear, a culture of silence.
“And that’s what led him to be able to abuse us.”
The Karolyi Ranch in Texas was the main training facility for the U.S. national teams run by coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi.
Revelations of the long-running abuses sparked investigations into possible misconduct at U.S. athletic federations and schools by Congress and the U.S. Department of Education, and led to the resignation of the entire USA Gymnastics board. The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee also resigned, citing medical reasons.
The scandal has triggered a number of lawsuits, including against the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto Editing by Tom Brown)