Michigan State ignored reports of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar for almost 20 years.
Over the course of nearly 20 years, more than a dozen employees of Michigan State University were made aware of sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar and failed to act on them, according to an investigation by the Detroit News.
At least eight women voiced concerns about Nassar’s “treatments,” and their complaints reportedly reached the ears of at least 14 MSU officials, including university president Lou Anna Simon. The women and girls who came forward included high school-aged athletes in the Lansing area and Spartans athletes competing in softball and track.
The first alleged assault by Nassar took place in 1992 but MSU officials were not notified. It wasn’t until 1997, when a 16-year-old high school gymnast named Larissa Boyce accused Nassar of abuse, that Michigan State was made aware of his actions. Boyce told the News that her coach instructed her to tell Spartans head gymnastics coach Kathie Klages what happened.
“She just couldn’t believe that was happening,” Boyce told the News. “She said I must be misunderstanding what was going on.”
Klages retired in February as the full extent of Nassar’s crimes began to take shape. Her retirement was announced the same day as a second woman accused Klages of discouraging her from reporting Nassar.
Another athlete, track and cross country runner Christie Achenbach, told the News that Nassar “put his fingers up inside me” when she sought treatment for a hamstring injury. Achenbach told her coach, Kelli Bert, what had happened and Bert dismissed her concerns.
“He’s an Olympic doctor and he should know what he is doing,” Achenbach recalled Bert saying.
A tearful Bert told the News that she didn’t recall the interaction with Achenbach.
“If someone had said something about being assaulted, I would never brush it aside,” Bert said. “To me, that is every woman’s nightmare.”
President Simon apparently wasn’t notified of the allegations against Nassar until a Title IX complaint was filed in 2014. Simon received a notice of the complaint but said she did not receive a copy of the resulting report.
Simon has faced repeated calls to resign over her inaction with regard to Nassar. The speaker of the state house of representatives, Tom Leonard, called for her resignation in early December, followed weeks later by gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer. The State News, Michigan State’s student newspaper, published an editorial Thursday urging Simon to resign.
Nassar, who has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography charges, is in court this week for sentencing after pleading guilty to nine counts of sexual abuse. More than 100 people are scheduled to give victim impact statements at his sentencing hearing.