Seven months after Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing hundreds of girls and women while he was a physician for Michigan State and the team doctor for USA Gymnastics, two more gymnasts are speaking out. Olympians Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian went on “CBS This Morning” on Thursday and revealed that they’d both been abused by Nassar.
Ross, 21, was part of the 2012 “Fierce Five” team that won gold at the London Games. Kocian, also 21, was part of the 2016 “Final Five” team that won gold at the Rio Games, and she also won silver on uneven bars. Both told “CBS This Morning” that it took them a long time to come to terms with the abuse they’d suffered, and even to recognize that they had been abused. Ross said that she was “in denial” when the accusations and details began to surface.
Kocian recalled that the “treatments” that Nassar gave them had been normalized, so most of her fellow gymnasts never even asked questions when it was happening to them. She explained just how the toxic culture at the Karolyi Ranch, the former USA Gymnastics training facility, enabled Nassar’s abuse.
“It was almost like a family member. On international trips he’d bring us food, or just kind of be that person that would always ask how you’re doing, because the culture that was at the Karolyi Ranch was a culture of fear, a culture of silence, and that’s what let him be able to abuse us.”
Coming to terms with what happened to them was difficult, but both told the Associated Press that seeing Ross’ former 2012 Olympic teammate Jordyn Wieber, now the assistant gymnastics coach at UCLA, confront Larry Nassar during his trial was a turning point.
“Just seeing the process through her view had helped me find my voice and be confident in myself and realize I was a victim,” Ross said. “But we don’t want to be viewed as victims. This is something we have to grow through. Now we’re just trying to find our voice and help.”
“CBS This Morning” reached out to USA Gymnastics for a statement.
“USA Gymnastics’ support is unwavering for Kyla, Madison and all the athletes who courageously came forward to share their experiences. Their powerful voices and stories will continue to be a basis for our future decisions.”
But Ross questioned the sincerity of that statement. She said that USA Gymnastics had yet to reach out to either her or Kocian personally.
“Personally, we both have not heard anything, and it’s been saddening to know that a lot of gymnasts have gone through this event and they have not reached out and seen how we’re doing as people, not as just athletes but as individuals who grew up in this sport.”
Both Kocian and Ross have retired from USA Gymnastics and are competing at UCLA while they go to school. Ross said that the experience has opened her eyes, and allowed her to see that athletes need more rights and a say in their own training — and lives.
“Being on the national team for all those years, we were really silenced. We didn’t really have a voice and a say as athletes. And I think that being able to compete at UCLA under the care of Miss Val [UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field] and all our coaches, we realized that as an athlete, we should have a voice. This is our sport and we should enjoy it and not just be there to win medals.”
Change at USA Gymnastics has been slow, and gymnasts like Simone Biles and Aly Raisman are tired of waiting for the governing body of their sport to get their act together and protect athletes. Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian have joined the chorus of voices demanding change, and they’re not going anywhere.
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