USA Gymnastics told Congress it has not used non-disclosure agreements in investigations except in the case of Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, one of more than 200 women and girls who have said now-imprisoned sports doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of treatment.
The Indianapolis-based organization's statement was part of its response to an initial congressional inquiry that was made public Tuesday. The leaders of a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the health and safety of athletes also released answers provided by Michigan State University — Nassar's longtime employer until 2016 — and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The Senate probe, one of at least three investigations in Congress, is partly focused on the non-disclosure agreement for Maroney, who in December sued to invalidate the deal that had been reached with USA Gymnastics more than a year before. She said she was forced to sign the confidential settlement and argued it violated California law.
USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry in a letter to Sens. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, denied that the organization coerced Maroney and said it had worked with its insurer to resolve the claim "expeditiously without the need for litigation." USA Gymnastics took "absolutely no action" against Maroney with respect to the confidentiality provision when she disclosed the abuse publicly in October and has publicly praised her for coming forward, Perry said. Maroney also had a victim impact statement read on her behalf when Nassar was recently sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in Michigan.
"At this time, USA Gymnastics deems the parties mutually released from the mutual confidentiality agreement (and certain other settlement provisions challenged in her lawsuit) and has communicated that to Ms. Maroney's counsel," Perry wrote.
She also told the senators that USA Gymnastics has not used non-disclosure agreements in conjunction with other investigations.
But John Manly, an attorney representing Maroney and many of the other women and girls who have said Nassar molested them, said Tuesday that the statement "is a lie." He said he has "spoken to USAG athletes bound by NDAs."
He said Maroney's suit continues because she wants an injunction "preventing them from engaging in this type of conduct in the future. It's very important to McKayla and her parents that no young girl gets treated this way again. We are also considering other action against USAG on behalf of McKayla."
A lawyer for the U.S. Olympic Committee said in a response to the Senate inquiry that its leadership was "to the best of its current knowledge" not aware of Maroney's settlement, including the non-disclosure provisions.
Michigan State, meanwhile, wrote to the senators that while a number of Nassar's former patients have said they told university coaches and trainers of their concerns about him as early as 1997, past and current employees "have said that they do not remember the alleged reports to them (some of which would have taken place as many as 20 years ago) as they have been described. To date, there has been no indication that any MSU employee understood at any time prior to September 2016 that Nassar engaged in sexual misconduct. As noted earlier, MSU continues to investigate and may learn more as part of the litigation discovery process."
Moran and Blumenthal said in a statement that they remain concerned about "potential systemic issues" within the three institutions and plan to seek additional clarification.
They declined further comment, saying they were waiting for responses from the remaining 53 national sports governing bodies as part of an expanded probe.
Also Tuesday, Michigan State announced the hiring of New York-based investigative company Kroll as an independent third party to help probe complaints filed under the school's Title IX relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy. The university's Office of Institutional Equity saw a 35 percent increase in incident reports from the 2015-16 academic year to the 2016-17 year and expects the number to rise.
The average investigation time is 80 days, which interim President John Engler, a former Michigan governor, said is "far too long."
Separately, former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard and the law firm where he is a partner in the Washington office, DLA Piper, have been hired to represent Michigan State in Congress and before federal departments and agencies. And Michigan State's Faculty Senate in a vote overwhelmingly expressed no confidence in the school's board of trustees, which has come under criticism for its handling of the Nassar fallout and in how it hired Engler to succeed Lou Anna Simon, who resigned last month.
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