USA Gymnastics officials allegedly worked with Larry Nassar to come up with bogus excuses for his absence as the convicted child molester was investigated for abuse, a new report states.
Nassar and organization officials allegedly collaborated to come up with cover stories for the former team doctor — including that he was sick and focusing on his private practice — rather than reveal that he was under investigation for sexually abusing dozens of young gymnasts, according to a new report from the Indianapolis Star.
The concocted excuses were allegedly used to explain why Nassar wouldn’t attend two events ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In one email obtained by the publication, Indianapolis attorney Scott D. Himsel, who was working with USA Gymnastics, told Nassar that he shouldn’t attend an upcoming sporting event and that the organization would say Nassar couldn’t appear for “personal reasons.”
Nassar allegedly replied: “Can we just say that i am sick? That would make more sense to everyone. Would that be ok?”
Himsel agreed. Later, Nassar allegedly asked officials to tell people he’d be away from another event to focus on his private practice, according to the IndyStar. They again allegedly agreed. USA Gymnastics and Himsel both declined to comment to the Star about the emails.
In September 2015, Nassar’s then-lawyer, Matthew Borgula, reached out to Himsel to check on the status of their investigation, and stated that his client would no longer provide “false excuses.”
“No one believes that Dr. Nassar would so easily miss those events — especially since the athletes and coaches involved with USAG continue to request his attendance,” Borgula reportedly wrote. “Dr. Nassar can no longer honor your request to provide false excuses to his colleagues, the USAG staff and/or the athletes about his absences.”
Borgula was apparently unaware that USA Gymnastics relieved Nassar of his duties two months earlier. Borgula did not reply to the IndyStar‘s request for comment.
Earlier this year, Nassar was sentenced to more than 175 years in prison for sexually abusing women and girls for decades during his time at Michigan State University and as a USA Gymnastics doctor. Many victims claimed Nassar inserted ungloved fingers into their vaginas and told them he was simply giving them medical treatment.
As the situation unfolded in recent years, USAG has been criticized for its handling of the the matter. Earlier this year, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman filed a lawsuit against USAG and the U.S. Olympic Committee, alleging that officials knew about Nassar’s abuse and only enabled his behavior.
— IndyStar (@indystar) May 24, 2018
At a Wednesday congressional hearing, lawmakers did not mince words when addressing USAG president Kerry Perry and USOC chief Susanne Lyons, NBC News reports.
“What are we doing to protect these young people — right now?” Rep. Debbie Dingell asked. “The time for talk is over and you need to walk your talk!”
Perry released a detailed statement after the hearing, noting that “I apologize to all who were harmed by the horrific acts of Larry Nassar. Your powerful voices will not be forgotten. I commit to you that I will keep your words and experiences at the core of every decision I make, every day, as the leader of this organization.”
She also noted that “Since December 2017, USA Gymnastics has embarked on a mission to implement a culture that puts athletes first.”
USA Gymnastics did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment on the Indianapolis Star report.
USAG fired Nassar in 2015. He had worked with the organization since 1986, and served as national medical coordinator since 1996, The New York Times reported.
Earlier this month, officials said that Michigan State University will pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who accused Nassar of abuse.