A group of 51 women who claim they were sexually assaulted under the guise of treatment by convicted sports doctor Larry Nassar have sued the United States Olympic Committee, claiming that it failed to warn them about him.
The suit — filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on Tuesday — seeks damages for what it claims was a slow and inadequate response to allegations about Nassar.
Nassar is serving a sentence of 40 to 175 years in a federal prison in Arizona after he admitted molesting some of the nation’s elite female gymnasts while purportedly treating them for sports injuries.
The 134-page lawsuit describes in graphic detail a litany of allegations, some involving athletes as young as 8, dating back over two decades.
The suit contends the Colorado Springs-based USOC failed to implement a policy to protect athletes against such abuse until 2017.
“The nationwide plan was finally implemented only after the Nassar scandal erupted and caught the attention of the world,” the suit states. “For many of the Plaintiffs, the implementation of real safeguards against sexual violence was too little, too late.”
When contacted Friday about the suit, Mark Jones, a spokesman for the USOC, said in an email, “We don’t comment on pending litigation.”
The USOC has been named as a defendant in similar lawsuits in which USA Gymnastics is also a defendant, claiming it should not be held responsible for Nassar’s crimes, The Associated Press reported. This lawsuit singles out the USOC.
The suit was filed on behalf of the women by the Lakewood law firm Andrus Wagstaff. Vance Andrus, a lawyer for the firm, could not be reached for comment.
Besides the USOC, the lawsuit names 22 current and former directors and officers as individual defendants. The defendants include Colorado residents Dave W. Ogrean, former USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun, former USOC Chief Sports Performance officer Alan Ashley and former USOC Chief Security Officer Larry Buendorf.
The law firm also seeks to preserve the anonymity of the women, arguing that as victims of child sex abuse their names do not need to be made public.
They live in 11 states, including Colorado, with most coming from Michigan, where Nassar once had his sports medicine practice at Michigan State University’s East Lansing campus while affiliated with USA Gymnastics.
In searing detail, the lawsuit describes their encounters with Nassar as inflicting long-lasting psychological and emotional damage:
The suit describes an 8-year-old whose mother often accompanied her to her appointments with Nassar but could not see what he was doing. Once the girl gasped when he touched the area near her vagina. “Nassar would respond by saying, ‘Sorry, cold hands,’ ” the suit stated.
A 21-year-old gymnast who had planned to become a physician’s assistant in orthopedics, instead went into nephrology (which deals with kidney disease) after her experience with Nassar because “it requires only minimal physical contact with patients.”
A 17-year-old competitive cheerleader sought treatment for hip injuries and related surgeries. The suit claims Nassar groped her and instructed her to wear loose clothing to her appointments. When she resisted, the suit claims Nassar told her she would need more hip surgeries if she did not comply.
A Colorado resident, identified only as Jane L.W. Doe, who was treated by Nassar in March 2001 at the Karolyi Ranch, also known as the USAG National Team Training Center in Huntsville Texas, when she was a 15-year-old gymnast with the U.S. National Team. While being treated for back pain, the suit claims she was subjected to a sexual assault by Nassar.
The suit claims many of the young women were sexually inexperienced and had been taught to respect authority figures.
Many did not come forward with their allegations until after stories in the Indianapolis Star began to detail the allegations against Nassar and the criminal prosecution that followed.
The lawsuit has been assigned to Magistrate Kathleen M. Tafoya who has scheduled a May 13th scheduling and planning conference at the U.S. District Courtroom in Colorado Springs.