Facing a proliferation of sexual assault allegations involving a former team doctor, USA Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport, last year signed a nondisclosure agreement as part of a settlement with one of the victims, McKayla Maroney.
Maroney, a gold medalist at the 2012 London Games, is among the many gymnasts who have said they were abused by the doctor, Lawrence G. Nassar.
The settlement was described in a lawsuit filed today by Maroney against the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, which employed Nassar. The existence of the suit was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The lawsuit claims that Maroney “was forced to agree to a nondisparagement clause and confidentiality provision,” and that she would have had to pay more than $100,000 should she “speak of her abuse or the settlement.”
USA Gymnastics said: “Contrary to reports, the concept of confidentiality was initiated by McKayla’s attorney, not USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics cannot speak to the mediation process, which is confidential and privileged under California law. The process culminated in a settlement agreement that included a mutual nondisclosure clause and a mutual nondisparagement clause.”
The Olympic committee noted that it was not a part of the settlement, and said, “We are heartbroken that this abuse occurred, proud of the brave victims that have come forward and grateful that our criminal justice system has ensured that Nassar will never be able to harm another young woman.”
Michigan State said that it does not comment on ongoing litigation.
Maroney’s lawyer, John Manly, called the confidentiality agreement “an immoral and illegal attempt to silence a victim of child sexual abuse” in exchange for a financial settlement.
“McKayla was and is in rough shape,” he said. “She needs help, therapy, she can’t work, for periods she couldn’t even get out of bed. She was desperate for the financial support needed to move on.”
When Maroney publicly disclosed her abuse in October, Manly said, she did so knowing that she faced financial penalties under the agreement. “It takes tremendous courage to publicly disclose it,” he said. “Knowing that any day there could be a process server at her door.”
Manly said that under California law the victim of child sexual abuse cannot be forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of a settlement.
USA Gymnastics said, “The settlement in 2016 was in accordance with state law, despite what has been alleged.”
In addition to monetary damages, the suit seeks to nullify the nondisclosure agreement.
The suit said that Maroney agreed to the settlement in December 2016 in order to pay for psychological treatment. Nassar had been charged with criminal sexual conduct the previous month.
Maroney is one of dozens of former gymnasts who have said Nassar molested them when treating them. He pleaded guilty to molestation charges in November and will be sentenced in January, although he already received a 60-year sentence for child pornography.
Gold medalists Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas are among the other gymnasts who have accused Nassar of sexual assault.