Olympic gold-medal gymnast McKayla Maroney sat down for a heartbreaking interview with Savannah Guthrie that will air Sunday night on Dateline. In the interview, Maroney reveals that she was molested by US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar “hundreds of times.” Although Maroney won a gold medal, the trauma of sexual abuse left her questioning whether her Olympic career was “worth it.”
“I at times question if my gymnastics career was really even worth it because of the stuff I’m dealing with now, because sometimes you’re just left in the dust,” Maroney says in the interview. “You have to pick up the pieces of your life. That has been the hardest part for me, but it’s always three steps forward, two steps back.”
The Price of Silence
She says the abuse, referred to as “treatments,” started during her very first check-up with him, when she was 13 years old. He got her to keep silent by telling her “nobody would understand this, and the sacrifice it takes to get to the Olympics. You can’t tell people this.” This type of manipulation is a common tactic of sexual abusers, but no doubt training for the Olypmic Games compounded the pressure to not speak out and seek help.
The Scariest Night
According to Maroney, the abuse was “constant” and occurred hundreds of times. The scariest night of her life occurred on after a flight to Tokyo when she was fifteen years old. Nassar gave Maroney a sleeping pill for the long flight, which she did not remember. She woke up in Japan receiving one of Nassar’s “treatments.” She was so terrified, she thought she “might die that night.”
Maroney was the first accuser to speak out against Nassar’s abuses. Thanks to the bravery of her and over 250 other victims, Nassar is now in prison, almost certainly for the rest of his life.
“How could have Larry Nassar been allowed to assault so many women and girls for more than two decades?” Maroney asked. “The answer to that question lies in the failure of not one, but three major institutions to stop him — Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee.”
USA Gymnastics gave a statement to NBC saying, “We are doing everything possible to prevent abuse, and we hope everything we do going forward makes this very clear.” They also praised Maroney for speaking out.