LITTLE CANADA, Minn. (KMSP) - Maggie Nichols, a Little Canada, Minnesota native and former U.S. national team gymnast, has publicly come forward as the initial victim of sexual assault by former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar.
In a statement released Tuesday, the current Oklahoma University sophomore says she is sharing her traumatic story to “bring about true change.” Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas have also disclosed sexual abuse by Nassar.
“Up until now, I was identified as Athlete A by USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State University," Nichols wrote. "I want everyone to know that he did not do this to Athlete A, he did it to Maggie Nichols.”
Her parents say they've been living with an awful secret, unable to keep their daughter safe in her moment of need.
"My job as a father is to protect my baby girl," Maggie's father John Nichols said. "I had to relinquish that to these entities. I had to put my trust into them and they have totally failed us."
Nassar was fired from USA Gymnastics in 2015 after numerous complaints from gymnasts, though he continued working at Michigan State University despite the allegations. In all, more than 100 athletes have accused him of sexual misconduct.
Throughout that time, the Nichols family say they were instructed to stay quiet.
"We were under the guise that this was being handled by the FBI, and that we shouldn't contact anybody because we could interfere with this investigation," John Nichols said.
Now, they're just hoping to see justice done--better late than never.
Maggie started gymnastics when she was three years old and began competing at the elite level when she was 13. By 14, she had made the U.S. national team. She retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team, due in part to a meniscus tear in her knee suffered just three months before the Olympic trials. As a freshman at Oklahoma, she was a first team All-American on vault bars and floor and led her team to a NCAA National Championship.
Nichols says Nassar initially treated her for an elbow injury when she was 13 or 14 years old, but when she was 15, he treated her for severe back pain.
“My back was really hurting me, I couldn’t even really bend down, and I remember he took me into the training room, closed the door and closed the blinds. At the time, 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. I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I didn’t really think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me 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,” Nichols wrote.
Nichols says Nassar did this “treatment” to her on numerous occasions.
“Not only was Larry Nassar my doctor, I thought he was my friend. He contacted me on Facebook complimenting me and telling me how beautiful I looked on numerous occasions. But I was only 15 and I thought he was just trying to be nice to me. Now I believe this was part of the grooming process I recently learned about.”
One of Nichols’ coaches reported Nassar to USA Gymnastics after overhearing Nichols talking to her teammates about Nassar and the treatments.
He is currently in prison on federal child pornography charges. He has also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan State Court and will be sentenced next week.
Nichols also says USA Gymnastics failed to provide a safe environment for her and her teammates.
“We were subjected to Dr. Nassar at every national team camp, which occurred monthly at the Karolyi Ranch. His job was to care for our health and treat our injuries. Instead, he violated our innocence," she wrote.
Nichols' attorney, John Manly, also represents 107 other young women and girls who are suing USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University -- two of the organizations that employed Nassar.