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Gymnast McKayla Maroney says settlement covered up sex abuse

US gymnast McKayla Maroney on uneven bars during the 44th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp in 2013.
Maroney says Larry Nassar, the former US team doctor facing child porn and sexual assault charges, "deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison." | John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney says the group that trains U.S. Olympic gymnasts forced her to sign a confidential settlement to keep allegations of sexual abuse by the team’s doctor secret.

Maroney filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles against the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics. The suit also seeks damages from Michigan State University, where the team’s doctor, Larry Nassar, worked for decades.

Nassar is accused of molesting at least 125 girls and young women while he worked for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State. He pleaded guilty in November to multiple charges of sexual assault and will face at least 25 years in prison.

Nassar, 54, admitted to molesting seven girls, mostly under the guise of treatment at his Lansing-area home and a campus clinic, between 1998 and 2015.

Maroney’s lawsuit alleges that the settlement was illegal and “for the purpose of silencing a known victim of Nassar.” Maroney says she accepted the settlement in December 2016 after “years of psychological trauma” and sexual abuse. The terms weren’t disclosed in court papers.

USA Gymnastics didn’t immediately comment on Maroney’s lawsuit.

Nassar, who lost his physician’s license in April, admitted at his plea hearing in November that his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls’ consent. The 125 girls and young women who have filed reports of abuse with campus police will be able to speak at his Jan. 12 sentencing.

The plea deal in Ingham County, Michigan, calls for a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, but the judge could set the minimum sentence as high as 40 years.

Besides Maroney, Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas also are among the women who have publicly said they were among Nassar’s victims.

The criminal cases against Nassar followed reports last year in The Indianapolis Star about how USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, mishandled complaints about sexual misconduct involving the doctor and coaches. Women and girls said the stories inspired them to step forward with detailed allegations of abuse.

Many of the accusers have sued Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Victim Rachael Denhollander said officials kept Nassar in power for decades after ignoring repeated reports of sexual assaults and brushing off the victims as being unable to tell the difference between a medical exam and a sexual violation.

John Manly, an attorney for 105 accusers, said in November the three institutions “miserably failed children,” and he likened what happened with Nassar to the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University.

He criticized an internal review at Michigan State and called for an investigation of university officials by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office is prosecuting Nassar.

Women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages resigned earlier this year, but others remain on the job.