McKayla Maroney says USA Gymnastics tried to silence her abuse story


When Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney came forward this fall with her story of being repeatedly molested by the team's doctor, USA Gymnastics publicly praised her for having the "courage" to hold a predator accountable.

But a lawsuit filed Wednesday by Maroney alleges that USA Gymnastics actually tried to silence her nearly a year earlier by making her sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of a financial settlement she needed to pay for psychological treatment. 

The agreement was inked just a few months after the first public accusations against Dr. Larry Nassar, who has since pleaded guilty to molesting 10 girls and possessing child pornography. At the time, law enforcement was encouraging women who were abused under the guise of treatments to come forward.

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."

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McKayla Maroney at the 2012 Olympics
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McKayla Maroney at the 2012 Olympics
McKayla Maroney of the U.S. gestures after competing in the vault during the women's gymnastics qualification in the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS SPORT GYMNASTICS)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 14: (L-R) Members of the Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. Women's Gymnastics team Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross attend The Cinema Society with Circa and Alice & Olivia screening of 'Sparkle' After Party at the Soho Grand Hotel on August 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 14: Kyla Ross, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber of the 2012 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Gold Medal Team ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on August 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas on August 9, 2012 -- (Photo by: Warrick Page/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 14: Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney arrives to light The Empire State Building on August 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images)
US gymnast Mckayla Maroney (C), Alexandra Raisman (R) and Kyla Ross (L) react during the women's team of the artistic gymnastics event of the London Olympic Games on July 31, 2012 at the 02 North Greenwich Arena in London. Team US won gold, Team Russia took silver and Team Romania got bronze. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages)
US gymnast Gabrielle Douglas (C), Mckayla Maroney (2D-R), Alexandra Raisman (R) and Kyla Ross (3D-R) celebrate winning gold in the women's team of the artistic gymnastics event of the London Olympic Games on July 31, 2012 at the 02 North Greenwich Arena in London. Team US won gold, Team Russia took silver and Team Romania got bronze. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages)
McKayla Maroney of the United States lept off the vault apparatus apparatus during women's team gymnastics finals at North Greenwich Arena during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, Tuesday, July 31, 2012. The United States won the gold medal in the event. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)
The United States women's gymnastics team of (center podium, left to right) Jordyn Wieber, Gabrielle Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman (partially obscured) and Kyla Ross listened to the National Anthem during victory ceremonies at North Greenwich Arena during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, Tuesday, July 31, 2012. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: (L-R) Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross, Alexandra Raisman, and Gabrielle Douglas of the United States listen to Martha Karolyi, the team coordinator during training sessions for artistic gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Training Academy on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - MAY 14: Gymnast, McKayla Maroney, poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit on May 14, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - MAY 14: Gymnast, McKayla Maroney, poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit on May 14, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 01: McKayla Maroney during practice before the start of day 4 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on July 1, 2012 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
LONDON - JULY 31: (From 3D-L) US gymnasts Gabrielle Douglas, Mckayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman, coach John Geddert, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross celebrate winning gold in the women's team of the artistic gymnastics event of the London Olympic Games on July 31, 2012 at the 02 North Greenwich Arena in London. Team US won gold, Team Russia took silver and Team Romania got bronze. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 29: McKayla Maroney competes on the uneven bars during day 2 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on June 29, 2012 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 29: McKayla Maroney competes on the uneven bars during day 2 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on June 29, 2012 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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"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 charges, seeking to be released from the confidentiality clause.

Non-disclosure agreements are common in out-of-court settlements but have come under fresh scrutiny in recent months with revelations that alleged sex abusers and harassers including Bill CosbyBill O'Reilly and Harvey Weinstein used them to keep accusations under wraps.

USA Gymnastics, which oversees the sport in the United States and selects the Olympic teams, had a two-decade relationship with Nassar until it quietly fired him after getting complaints from athletes in June 2015. 

Allegations against him did not become public until August 2016, when an Indianapolis Star investigation revealed two women, one a club-level gymnast and the other an elite athlete, had accused him of sexually assaulting them during invasive pelvic therapy.

Since then, more than 140 girls and women have filed complaints against Nassar. In October, Maroney became the highest-profile athlete to go public, posting on Twitter a harrowing account of abuse that allegedly occurred on three continents as Nassar traveled with the team.

After her post — which was soon followed by allegations of abuse by fellow gold-medalists Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas — USA Gymnastics praised Maroney.

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Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman at women's national championships
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Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman at women's national championships
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Aly Raisman competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Gabrielle Douglas gets ready to compete in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Aly Raisman with coach Mihai Brestyan during the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Aly Raisman competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Gabrielle Douglas competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Gabrielle Douglas competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Gabrielle Douglas competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Aly Raisman competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Aly Raisman competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Gabrielle Douglas competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Aly Raisman competes in the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Simone Biles waves to the crowd after finishing first in the overall standings of the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 15: Gymnasts selected to the U.S. National team acknowledge the crowd following the women's finals of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on August 15, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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"USA Gymnastics admires the courage of those, like McKayla Maroney, who have come forward to share their personal experiences with sexual abuse," the organization said in a statement.

"Because of their strength in coming forward, predators can be held accountable for their actions. We, like so many others, are outraged and disgusted by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career." 

The lawsuit says that Maroney remains traumatized, gripped by depression and anxiety and terrified by the possibility that Nassar took photographs of her sexual abuse and shared them with other pedophiles.

"Nassar would continuously, obsessively and compulsively photograph McKayla Maroney and is believed to have possessed thousands of photographs of McKayla Maroney competing in gymnastics events, training, in everyday situations," the court papers say.

"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.

"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." 

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Gymnasts who have accused Larry Nassar of assault
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Gymnasts who have accused Larry Nassar of assault
Rachael Denhollander (C) the first woman to publicly say she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the former physician for the U.S. womens gymnastics team is hugged during a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Larissa Boyce, a former gymnast sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the former physician for the U.S. womens gymnastics team attends a hearing of Nassar's trial in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Rachael Denhollander (4th L with white blouse) the first woman to publicly say she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the former physician for the U.S. womens gymnastics team attends a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Madeleine Jones, 18 of Farmington Hills, Michigan, who was victimized by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar attends a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Larissa Boyce (R) gets a hug from Alexis Alvarado, both victims of Larry Nassar, during a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
kalie Lorincz (C) who was victimized by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
ANTWERPEN, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 02: McKayla Maroney of USA gets ready to compete in the Womens Vault Qualification on Day Three of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships Belgium 2013 held at the Antwerp Sports Palace on October 2, 2013 in Antwerpen, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 16: Aly Raisman of the United States performs during the women's floor exercise final at Rio 2016 on Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Raisin finished second to fellow American Simone Biles. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: Olympic medalist Simone Biles stands on stage during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The lawsuit does not provide any evidence that explicit photos of Maroney were taken or shared, and federal prosecutors who seized thousands of pornographic images from Nassar did not indicate they found any images of his patients.

And when Maroney turned 22 earlier this month, USA Gymnastics applauded her again: "On her birthday, we celebrate not only the talent it took to deliver the best vaults in the World but also McKayla's incredible bravery and strength to come forward."

Although USA Gymnastics contacted the FBI about the 2015 complaints, it did not publicly raise any red flags about Nassar, who continued to treat and allegedly abuse, patients at his Michigan State University sports medicine practice. 

The suit, which says that Maroney lost out on millions of dollars because trauma drove her from the sport, seeks damages from USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Michigan State University and Nassar.

The institutions, it says, failed to act on previous complaints against Nassar and gave him unfettered, unsupervised access to Maroney and other victims.

USA Gymnastics did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit. In the past, it has said it acted to remove Nassar as soon as it received complaints and has since beefed up its policies to protect athletes from abuse.

Nassar was sentenced this month to 60 years in federal prison on the pornography charges and is awaiting sentencing on state sex abuse charges. His attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

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