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USOC, USA Gymnastics, MSU begin responding to Congress over Larry Nassar case

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A.J. Perez

 |  USA TODAY Sports

The first responses from the Congressional inquiries into convicted team physician Larry Nassar began to trickle into Capitol Hill this week as Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee have begun communications with the Senate Commerce Committee.

The key question asked by the committee — along with the two other committees who have launched similar investigations — centered on what the organizations knew about Nassar’s conduct as he served as a team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State. More than 200 girls and women have came forward to allege they were abused by Nassar over a two-decade span.

The Washington Post obtained the responses from Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Michigan State pushed back against allegations it had ignored complaints as far back as 1997.

“To date, there has been no indication that any MSU employee understood at any time prior to September 2016 that Nassar engaged in sexual misconduct,” Michigan State said in its letter to the committee. “MSU continues to investigate and may learn more as part of the litigation discovery process.”

USA Gymnastics chief executive Kerry Perry wrote that the organization conducted an internal investigation after a coach contacted USAG officials to report an athlete felt ”uncomfortable with treatment she had received” from Nassar in June 2015. The FBI was contacted that July, according to Perry.

“USA Gymnastics was assured by the FBI that it was the appropriate agency to contact and that USA Gymnastics had handled the matter correctly,” Perry wrote in the letter obtained by The Washington Post.

The FBI agent, according to Perry, asked USA Gymnastics “not to take any steps that would interfere with their investigation,” which is why the organization didn’t notify Michigan State.

In its letter, the USOC said it first heard about the complaints against Nassar in July 2015 after USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun talked to former USA Gymnastics chief executive Steve Penny.

“Mr. Blackmun agreed that the matter needed to be reported immediately to law enforcement,” wrote Brian D. Smith, an attorney with Covington law firm which represents the USOC.

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges in December and received two sentences in two cases of criminal sexual abuse in Michigan courts, one for 40-175 years in January and one for 40-125 years earlier this month.

An Indianapolis Star investigation of USA Gymnastics, begun in 2016, uncovered widespread sexual abuse of athletes by coaches and others and failures to alert authorities. The reporting by the IndyStar, part of the USA TODAY Network, led to new federal laws requiring Olympic organizations and others to report all allegations of sexual assault to authorities and resulted in the ouster of USA Gymnastics’ president and entire board.

Follow Perez on Twitter @byajperez

 

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