Former doctor of the USA women’s gymnastics team Larry Nassar pleaded guilty Wednesday to molesting young athletes after more than 130 women accused him of sexually abusive behavior.
Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the Ingham County Circuit Court, CNN reports. He will be sentenced on January 12 and is expected to face at least 25 years in prison.
“For all those involved, I’m so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control,” Nassar told the court on Wednesday. “We need to move forward in a sense of growth and healing and I pray [for] that.”
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina responded to Nassar’s statement, telling him he violated the trust of young patients.
“I agree that now is a time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime of healing while you spend your life behind bars thinking of what you did by taking away their childhood," she said.
Though Nassar was accused by more than 130 women of lewd behavior, the Ingram County case focused on charges that he inserted ungloved fingers into eight female athletes’ vaginas and rectums while working at Michigan State University’s sports-medicine clinic. All eight women were under the age of 16.
“He convinced these girls that this was some type of legitimate treatment,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said last summer, the New York Times reports. “Why would they question him? Why would they question this gymnastics god?”
The former doctor also faces charges of sexual abuse in Eaton County, Michigan, where he is expected to plead guilty next week. He is also awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges earlier this year.
Nassar was fired by USA Gymnastics in 2015, which is when they claimed to have learned of the abuse.
Since then, high-profile gymnasts of the 2012 Olympic team, including McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, have come forward as alleged victims of Nassar’s sexual abuse.
Maroney shared her story on Twitter in October, claiming that Nassar molested her from when she was 13 until she left the sport.
"People should know that this is not just happening in Hollywood," Maroney said. "I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary, and disgusting."
Raisman said Nassar began "treating" her at age 15, but she didn’t recognize what he was doing to her as being inappropriate.
"We were told 'he's the best doctor. He's the United States Olympic doctor and the USA Gymnastics doctor and we were very lucky we were able to see him,’ ” she said on 60 Minutes.
Douglas came forward on Tuesday to allege abuse by her former doctor. Previously, the former teammate of Maroney and Raisman had been accused of victim-blaming and misogyny, but now she claims she’s on their side.
"I didn't publicly share my experiences as well as many other things," Douglas wrote, "because for years we were conditioned to stay silent and honestly some things were extremely painful."