A former U.S. national team gymnast from Minnesota has publicly come forward with sexual assault allegations against Dr. Larry Nassar – the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor who's the subject of a huge sex-abuse scandal.
Maggie Nichols, a native of Little Canada, released a letter sharing her story on Tuesday.
"Recently, three of my friends and former National Team members who medaled at the 2012 Olympics have bravely stepped forward to proclaim they were sexually assaulted by USA Gymnastics Team Physician Dr. Larry Nassar," Nichols starts the letter. "Today I join them."
The friends she's talking about are Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney – members of the so-called Fierce Five, the USA gymnastics team that took home gold in the 2012 London Olympics. They're among more than 100 women who have come forward in recent months alleging Nassar sexually assaulted them under the guise of medical treatments.
Along with admitting he sexually assaulted female gymnasts, Nassar has pleaded guilty to multiple charges of child pornography in federal court –he's accused of possessing more than 37,000 images.
In December, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the child porn charges, and later this month will be sentenced in Michigan state courts for 10 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with young girls, according to the New York Times.
ESPN says Nichols submitted her letter to a Michigan judge who will preside over Nassar's sentencing hearing on Jan. 16.
In the letter, Nichols says that she's been competing in gymnastics at the elite level since she was 13. At the time of the alleged abuse in 2015, Nichols was 15 and competing at the World Championships when she started experiencing pain in her back.
Nichols wrote that she had been treated by Nassar before for an elbow injury without incident. But when she went in for her back, he took her into a room where he closed the door and shut the blinds.
"At the time I thought this was kind of weird but figured it must be okay. I thought he probably didn’t want to distract the other girls and I trusted him," she writes.
That's when he touched her in places that she "really didn't think he should" without gloves on and without telling her what he was doing.
"There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain."
After this went on for multiple occasions, one of Nichols' coaches found out. Together they reported Nassar's behavior to USA Gymnastics leadership in the summer of 2015, the letter states.
Nassar continued to treat patients
After Nichols and her coach reported Nassar's behavior, he continued to practice medicine at Michigan State for more than a year.
"I later found out that Michigan State University had ignored complaints against Larry Nassar from other girls going back 20 years and had investigated him for sexual assault in 2014," Nichols wrote.
"They never told USA Gymnastics. If they had, I might never have met Larry Nassar and I would never have been abused by him."
According to ESPN, USA Gymnastics contacted the FBI about Nassar in the summer of 2015 but never alerted anyone at Michigan State about the allegations against him. He continued to treat patients at the university until late 2016, when several women with similar reports came forward and he was fired.
Nichols retired from elite gymnastics after not making the 2016 Rio Olympic team following a knee injury. She's now 20 and competes for the University of Oklahoma.
"I would like to let everyone know that I am doing OK. My strong faith has helped me endure. It is a work in progress. I will strive to ensure the safety of young athletes who have big dreams just like mine and I will encourage them to stand up and speak if something doesn’t seem right."