After a five-year legal battle, victims of abuse by the former U.S. women’s gymnastics team doctor will receive $380 million following a settlement reached with USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and their insurers.
As reported by the Associated Press, the dispute, which culminated on Monday, Dec. 13, was held in federal bankruptcy court in Indianapolis and put an end to the legal aspect of the largest sexual abuse scandal in U.S. Olympic history. The case involved more than 500 gymnasts who were victims of sexual abuse, mainly by Larry Nassar, a former osteopathic doctor of the national team.
Nasser was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison on charges of sexually assaulting more than 250 gymnasts, primarily minors, during his work at the USA Gymnastics Federation (USA Gymnastics), Michigan State University, and a gym in Lansing.
Li Li Leung, president of USA Gymnastics, said following the approval of the agreement, “Individually and collectively, survivors have stepped forward with bravery to advocate for enduring change in this sport.”
“We are committed to working with them, and with the entire gymnastics community, to ensure that we continue to prioritize the safety, health and wellness of our athletes and community above all else,” she added.
Among the victims are standout athletes and Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney. According to the Wall Street Journal on Monday, the three women testified about the abuse they suffered during a Senate hearing in September of this year.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said in September.
First to come forward with sexual abuse allegations against Nassar in 2016 was a former gymnast and now attorney, Rachael Denhollander, who stressed the importance of settling and putting legal proceedings behind them, so those female victims can move on with their lives.
“It’s not about money, it’s about change,” Denhollander told AP. “So many of these women, they can’t access medical care without a settlement. We had to balance that reality with the length of time it was taking. We felt it was in the best interest of everyone to accept this settlement … so that survivors would receive some semblance of justice,” she explained.
“It’s been hellish for all of us,” the former gymnast said. “To have to push for so long for the right things to take place, to have to push for so long to have justice happen … it should have never taken five years,” lamented Denhollander.
Meanwhile, Sarah Hirshland, executive director of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. (USOPC), acknowledged the organization’s failure to provide adequate protection for the victim athletes and said, “we are sorry for the profound hurt they have endured.”
The settlement includes a $34 million payment directly from the USOPC and a $6 million loan from the USOPC to USA Gymnastics.
In addition, as part of the settlement, a victim of these sexual assaults will be appointed to the USA Gymnastics Federation board of directors.