Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney claims in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that USA Gymnastics tried to prevent her from publicly accusing former team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by USA TODAY Sports, alleges that Maroney was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement as part of a financial settlement that she needed to pay for psychological treatment.
The Wall Street Journal reported Maroney's settlement was worth $1.25 million.
In her lawsuit, Maroney claims that USA Gymnastics "had a plan to keep the sexual abuse of Nassar quiet, and allow Nassar to quietly leave USAG; further silencing his victims."
USA Gymnastics confirmed the confidentiality agreement, but said in a statement that it had been requested by Maroney's previous attorney, Gloria Allred.
"(Allred) approached USA Gymnastics, requesting that the organization participate in a confidential mediation process," USA Gymnastics said in the statement. "USA Gymnastics cannot speak to the mediation process, which is confidential and privileged under California law. The process culminated in a settlement agreement that included a mutual non-disclosure clause and a mutual non-disparagement clause."
USA TODAY Sports asked Allred for clarification about who initiated the confidentiality agreement. She replied "No comment" via email.
John Manly, Maroney's current attorney, told ESPN that his client willingly signed the settlement. But he also said she was emotionally traumatized at the time by news that other gymnasts had suffered similar abuse. Maroney needed the money to pay for "lifesaving psychological treatment and care," which coerced and pressured her into signing the confidentiality agreement, according to the lawsuit.
Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, violated that agreement when she revealed on Twitter in October that she had been sexually abused by Nassar, who was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison earlier this month after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. The 22-year-old spoke out about the abuse using the hashtag #MeToo.
"I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting," Maroney wrote.
USA Gymnastics subsequently released a statement that said, in part, that it "admires the courage of those, like McKayla Maroney, who have come forward to share their personal experiences with sexual abuse."
The lawsuit filed Wednesday points to this statement, and a social-media post from the organization on Maroney's birthday, as proof of an attempt at misdirection.
"(USA Gymnastics) publicly discussed the exact same subject matter it sought to conceal, only months prior, presumably, to divert the public from USAG’s misdeeds and associate itself with disclosure by McKayla Maroney, which it clearly tried to prevent with this unlawful agreement," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also lists the U.S. Olympic Committee, Nassar and Michigan State University, where Nassar was employed, as defendants.
Contributing: Nancy Armour; The Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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