Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney has filed a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, alleging that their praises for speaking out about molestation claims against the sport's former doctor were a cover-up.
Maroney filed a suit Wednesday that claims USA Gymnastics actually tried to silence her nearly a year ago by making her sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of a financial settlement she needed to pay for psychological treatment, NBC News reports.
The agreement was penned a few months following the first public accusations against Dr. Larry Nassar, who has since pleaded guilty to abusing 10 girls and possessing child pornography.
Maroney's suit, filed in Superior Court in California, alleges that USA Gymnastics insisted on a confidentiality agreement so "it could further conceal and shield from public scrutiny, outside investigation, and law enforcement, the true nature of Nassar's horrific sexual abuse of minors."
"Plaintiff alleges that Defendant USAG had a plan to keep the sexual abuse of Nassar quiet, and allow Nassar to quietly leave USAG, further silencing his victims," the suit reads as Maroney is seeking to be released from the confidentiality clause.
While non-disclosure agreements are common in out-of-court settlements, they have been at the forefront of multiple cases of alleged sexual harassment and abuse after high-profile men, including Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, used them to silence accusations against them
Maroney insists that she was pressured to sign an agreement to prevent her from complaining about Nassar, whom she claims abused her from the time she was 13 until she left the sport. USA Gymnastics, which runs the sport in the United States and selects the Olympic teams, previously maintained a two-decade relationship with Nassar until he was quietly fired fired following complaints from athletes in June 2015.
The organization contacted the FBI about the 2015 complaints, but it did not publicly condemn Nassar, who continued to treat patients at his Michigan State University sports medicine practice. Patients of that practice have also alleged abuse by the doctor.
Maroney's lawsuit claims that the athlete suffers from depression and anxiety following the trauma she experienced at Nassar's hand — and the possibility that he took photographs of her sexual abuse.
"McKayla Maroney alleges that she believes photographs were taken of her while Nassar was sexually abusing her under the guise of treatment. McKayla Maroney is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that these photographs were shared by Nassar with other pedophiles for their sexual gratification," court papers claim.
"McKayla Maroney continues to worry, distress, experience concern, anxiety, and depression over whether Nassar's photographs of her are still circulating through the internet, and whether they are possessed by other pedophiles and sexual deviants, and whether she will ever know how widely these photographs have been shared or whether they will eventually surface later in her lifetime," the suit documents read.
The lawsuit provided no evidence that explicit photos of Maroney were taken or shared by Nassar, and federal prosecutors who obtained thousands of pornographic images from him did not indicate they found any original images of his patients.
Maroney's suit seeks damages from USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Michigan State University and Nassar. She claims these parties are responsible for her loss of millions of dollars after the traumatic experiences pushed her away from the sport.
The organizations failed to protect victims following previous complaints against Nassar, it adds. Despite warnings, these institutions gave him unsupervised access to Maroney and other victims.0comments
The former doctor is also awaiting sentencing on seven criminal sexual conduct charges. He entered the guilty plea in exchange for assurances that he would face no more charges involving dozens of other victims, The Detroit News reported at the time. He will be sentenced on January 12 and is expected to face at least 25 years in prison.