Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney said former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar would manipulate her using food.
In a Dateline segment set to air on NBC Sunday, the athlete admitted to the show’s co-host Savannah Guthrie that she “would’ve starved at the Olympics” if Nassar hadn’t brought her sustenance, revealing just one of many ways he manipulated and groomed his victims, a common practice among sexual abusers.
The 22-year-old said she had been mοlested by Nassar hundreds of times — beginning with her first visit to the Karolyi Ranch, a famous gymnastics camp facility — and told of how he became trusted by the young girls, who were placed under immense pressure. “Your coaches are just always watching you. And wanting to keep you skinny,” she said.
“I think I would’ve starved at the Olympics if I didn’t have him [Nassar] bring me food.” @McKaylaMaroney opens up about the competitive gymnastics culture to @savannahguthrie. More on @datelineNBC Sunday night pic.twitter.com/JlWluizD8g
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 19, 2018
Nassar became a hero to her when he brought her “a loaf of bread.”
For the athletes who were training nearly eight to nine hours a day, Maroney said there was little food provided for them. It was part of “other things about the culture that are also messed up,” but she says that Nassar clearly used these demands to his advantage.
This sentiment has been echoed by other members of the Fierce Five gymnastics team who have spoken up about the abuse. Maroney’s teammate Jordyn Wieber even spoke in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee on Wednesday to bring more attention to the corrupt culture that was overlooked by the United States Olympic Committee.
“To my teenage self, [Nassar] appeared to be the ‘good guy’ in an environment that was intense and restricting,” Wieber said. “He would try to advise me on how to deal with the stresses of training and my coaches. He always had a sympathetic ear for complaints about our coaches. He would bring us food and coffee at the Olympics when we were hungry. I didn’t know that these were all grooming techniques that he used to manipulate and brainwashing me into trusting him.”
The Olympic Committee, which claims to not have known about the abuse before June 2015, has apologized to the victims and announced reforms to ensure the protection of athletes. The owners of the Karolyi Ranch have not commented until, however, this anticipated investigative Dateline episode.
In January in Michigan, Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years after nearly 200 women came forward to share their stories of abuse over the past two decades.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• People are calling the judge who sent Larry Nassar to prison a hero
• Aly Raisman ‘still at a loss for words’ over gymnasts’ abuse
• Aly Raisman: Banning leotards from gymnastics to prevent abuse is a form of ‘victim shaming’