Michigan State fires former USA Gymnastics doctor amid abuse allegations

Michigan State University announced Tuesday that it has fired Dr. Larry Nassar after an IndyStar investigation revealed accusations of sexual abuse against the longtime USA Gymnastics team physician.

"Over the past week, the university received additional information that raised serious concerns about Nassar's compliance with certain employment requirements," university spokesman Jason Cody said. He would not elaborate but said the requirements were tied to a 2014 investigation into alleged "abuse during a medical procedure."

Cody added the university learned during the recent investigation that, in 2014, Nassar "was not forthcoming when questioned about other previous allegations." Cody emphasized the firing was independent of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Nassar's former attorney last week denied any wrongdoing by the doctor. His new attorney, Matthew Newburg, did not immediately respond to a message left by IndyStar.

The IndyStar investigation uncovered allegations by two former gymnasts — one an Olympic medalist — that Nassar penetrated girls with his finger while treating them for hip and back pain. The former gymnasts came forward independently after IndyStar's Aug. 4 investigation of USA Gymnastics and its handling of sexual abuse complaints over decades.

The women said they were molested during multiple treatments in the 1990s and early 2000s. They also claimed Nassar never used gloves and fondled their breasts.

One of the women, Rachael Denhollander, of Louisville, filed a report Aug. 29 with Michigan State University Police and a Title IX complaint with the university.

"I am filled with relief that the silence is ending and the truth is being made known," Denhollander said Tuesday. "I have hope that full justice is coming, and am firmly resolved to see that process through. This process has been painful beyond what I can express, but as justice is done, his ability to prey on women and children begins to end."

The other woman has sued Nassar and USA Gymnastics in California. The former Olympian was identified in court documents only as Jane Doe.

A day after publication of IndyStar's story, a university spokesman said Nassar was the subject of a misconduct complaint filed in 2014 by a recent graduate. The complaint alleged "abuse during a medical procedure." The spokesman said the complaint was investigated and a police report was submitted to then-Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III, but Nassar was not charged with any crime.

Ingham County Prosecutor Gretchen Whitmer said she has received "a handful" of allegations against Nassar since IndyStar's story. Cody said the school had also received "multiple complaints and we anticipate that we may receive more."

Nassar, 53, had been a faculty member at the university's College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was also team doctor at four Olympics and had worked with USA Gymnastics from 1986 to 2015.

The circumstances of Nassar's departure from USA Gymnastics are in dispute. Nassar said he retired voluntarily last year from his role with USA Gymnastics, although he had previously said he planned to stay on through the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The national governing body said it notified law enforcement and relieved the doctor of his duties "upon learning of athlete concerns." USA Gymnastics would not identify the law enforcement agency to which it made the report.

Cody said USA Gymnastics never notified the university about the concerns that prompted the organization to report him to law enforcement.

After his departure from USA Gymnastics, Nassar continued to work at Michigan State before being relieved from clinical and patient duties on Aug. 30, a day after Denhollander went to university police.

Nassar also continued his affiliation with a prominent local gymnastics club operated by a former U.S. Olympic coach.

"He is our team physician," John Geddert, owner of Twistars Gymnastics Club in Lansing, Mich., told IndyStar two weeks ago. "He's been affiliated with our club since 1988."

Nassar is currently running for a school board position in Holt, Mich.

Nassar has been a high-profile figure in gymnastics for decades. During one of the sport’s iconic moments, U.S. Olympic team officials handed over gymnast Kerri Strug to Nassar for medical attention after she performed on the vault with an injured ankle. At the time, it was believed to be the performance necessary to secure the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics.

USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny once praised Nassar as being “instrumental to the success of USA Gymnastics at many levels, both on and off the field of play.” In that 2014 news release, Penny added that Nassar’s “contributions over the years are immeasurable and will continue to be so.”

Nassar is president of the Gymnastics Doctor Autism Foundation, which helps gymnastics clubs establish programs for special needs children, and his Facebook page is filled with tributes to him.

Follow IndyStar reporter on Twitter: @markalesia; follow Marisa Kwiatkowski on Twitter: @IndyMarisaK; follow Tim Evans on Twitter: @starwatchtim.


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