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The head of Michigan State University (MSU) has resigned, hours after sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced for sexually abusing young athletes.
Lou Anna Simon had been facing pressure to step down. Nassar worked at MSU between 1997 and 2016.
Also a former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, he was sentenced to 40 to 175 years' imprisonment after testimony from almost 160 women.
Ms Simon denied reports that MSU knew of the abuse claims but failed to act.
She said in a statement: "To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment."
The accounts of Nassar's victims are "tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching," she added.
It began 16 months ago, before Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo and the tipping point of the US’s national reckoning with sexual assault, with an unsolicited email to the Indianapolis Star, which that morning had published a five-month investigation into the mishandling of sexual abuse allegations by the national governing body of gymnastics.
It read: “I recently read the article titled ‘Out of Balance’ published by the IndyStar. My experience may not be relevant to your investigation, but I am emailing to report an incident that may be. I was not molested by my coach, but I was molested by Dr Larry Nassar, the team doctor for USAG. I was 15 years old, and it was under the guise of medical treatment for my back.”
In June 2015, Maggie Nichols and her coach Sarah Jantzi reported to USA Gymnastics officials that the gymnast had been sexually abused by team doctor Larry Nassar. Their complaints, which were passed onto then-CEO Steve Penny, prompted a five-week internal investigation during which Nichols, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney were interviewed by Fran Sepler, a private consultant, who recommended that USA Gymnastics report Nassar to the authorities. USA Gymnastics said it contacted the FBI the following business day after receiving Sepler’s recommendation.
This timeline of events has well-documented for over a year, starting with the Wall Street Journal’s report back in February 2017. But today the Indianapolis Star reports that while USA Gymnastics was sorting out what to do with Nassar, it was simultaneous helping the doctor create a cover story for his absence.
After Nichols made her report, Nassar was removed from contact with the national team. But given that he was a fixture for so long on the gymnastics scene—I remember seeing him with the team at the 2014 world championships in China—his absence at major domestic and international competitions was noted.
Rather than go with the truth—namely, telling people that Nassar was under investigation for child sexual abuse—or simply saying nothing at all, USA Gymnastics agreed to help Nassar offer a respectable excuse for his absence at gymnastics events in 2015.