Gymnast McKayla Maroney says settlement covered up sex abuse

FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2013 file photo McKayla Maroney smiles after competing on the floor exercise during the U.S. women's national gymnastics championships in Hartford, Conn. Maroney says the group that trains U.S. Olympic gymnasts forced her to sign a confidential settlement to keep allegations of sexual abuse by the team's doctor secret. Maroney filed a lawsuit Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in Los Angeles, against the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics. The suit also seeks damages from Michigan State University, where the team's doctor, Larry Nassar, worked for decades. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola,File)

LOS ANGELES — Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney was forced to sign a confidential settlement with the group that trains U.S. Olympic gymnasts to keep allegations that she was sexually abused by team doctor Larry Nassar a secret, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Maroney, who won a team gold and an individual silver on vault as part of the "Fierce Five" U.S. women's team at the 2012 Olympics in London, said Nassar's abuse started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

After suffering sexual abuse and "years of psychological trauma," Maroney reached a settlement with USA Gymnastics in December 2016, but the terms of the agreement weren't disclosed in court papers. Her lawsuit seeks to invalidate parts of the settlement, arguing it violated California law and that USA Gymnastics "had a plan to keep the sexual abuse of Nassar quiet."

Maroney, who is now 22 years old, said in a Twitter post in October that the abuse started when she was 13 and attending a U.S. national team training camp in Houston. Nassar told her at the time that she was receiving "medically necessary treatment he had been performing on patients for over 30 years," she said at the time.

Her attorney, John Manly, said she had been abused between 50 and 100 times by Nassar, including at the Olympics and during the world championships.

She has described Nassar giving her a sleeping pill while the team traveled to Japan for the 2011 world championships. Maroney says Nassar later visited her in her hotel room after the team arrived in Tokyo, where he molested her yet again.

"First and foremost, she wants this never to happen to another little girl," Manly said in an interview Wednesday.

The settlement included nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses and Maroney or her parents could be sued for more than $100,000 for violating the agreement. The suit seeks to invalidate those provisions under a California law which prohibits settlements in civil cases that could result in criminal sex offense charges.

"It's despicable and it is wrong," Manly said of the settlement agreement.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement that the "concept of confidentiality" was initiated by Maroney's attorney and that both the non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses were mutually agreed upon.

"The settlement in 2016 was in accordance with state law, despite what has been alleged," the statement said. "Although USA Gymnastics is disappointed by today's filing, we applaud McKayla and others who speak up against abusive behavior — including the despicable acts of Larry Nassar."

Nassar has admitted to sexually assaulting female gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought treatment. He was sentenced earlier this month to serve 60 years in federal prison for possessing thousands of images of child pornography.

Maroney's lawsuit also names the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, where Nassar had worked for decades.

The lawsuit charges that the U.S. Olympic Committee has had "a culture and atmosphere that conceals known and suspected sexual abusers."

The U.S. Olympic Committee was first made aware of the allegations involving Nassar in 2015, when USA Gymnastics officials said they were contacting law enforcement, USOC spokesman Mark Jones said.

USA Gymnastics said it reported Nassar to the FBI after learning about the abuse in 2015 and cooperated fully with the federal investigation.

The court complaint alleges that Michigan State University had received complaints from two female athletes who accused Nassar of inappropriately touching them in the late 1990s.

A spokesman for the university declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

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Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 .

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