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New Documentary 'Athlete A' Follows IndyStar's Coverage Of USA Gymnastics

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm Bob Zaltsberg from the WFIU WTIU newsroom, along with co-host Sara Wittmeyer our news bureau chief. We're recording the show from many different locations today to avoid the risk of spreading coronavirus. And today we're talking to the IndyStar reporters who broke the story about USA Gymnastics mishandling allegations of sexual assault and the attorney who represented many of these women. We have four guests with us today. We have Marisa Kwiatkowski, USA Today investigative reporter and a former reporter for the IndyStar, Tim Evans, an investigative and consumer reporter for The IndyStar, Steve Berta, the IndyStar investigations team leader and John Manly, an attorney for Manly, Stewart and Finaldi Lawyers and he has represented many of the women involved in these cases. You can follow us on Twitter today @NoonEdition. And you can send us questions to news@indianapublicmedia.org. Well, thank you all for joining us today. I wanted to start out by also acknowledging the documentary "Athlete A" on Netflix. I would encourage everybody who's interested in this topic to watch that documentary. It tells the full story of this and we'll do our very best to tell the full story here today. But the Netflix documentary I think does a really good job of that. And I also want to acknowledge my Hoosier journalism colleagues, Marisa, Tim and Steve and also Mark Alesia for the work they did on this. It was Pulitzer Prize worthy work. It was fantastic work. So having being able to say that as the host of the show, I wanted to start out by asking Steve Berta about this, you know, how did this all begin? I mean when did you as the investigations team leader know that you had something really big on your hands? Steve, I think you're muted. 

>>STEVE BERTA: I'm sorry. Those are actually two separate questions in a way because when we first encountered this Marisa was working on a story about why schools in our area were not reporting child sexual abuse as required by law. And so she was doing kind of a general story about why institutions don't report. And she got a tip from a local attorney who told her well, we ought to look at USA Gymnastics. And there was a lawsuit going on in Georgia at the time in which somebody was claiming that USA Gymnastics had been warned about a coach who was dangerous and allowed him to continue to have a membership in the organization and that he had subsequently went on to molest other children. We sent Marisa down to Georgia immediately to get the court documents because they were about to be sealed. And when she came back we sort of looked over that what we had and we realized that they had a policy, but we really didn't know at that time. And the policy was to not report allegations of child sexual abuse unless it was a form of a signed letter from either the victim or being the survivor or the survivor's parent or an eye witness. And we realized that that had potential to damage a lot of people. There were a lot of members of the organization who were young children, but we didn't really know that it had damaged them. So our next step was to try to find out. And that's what we did. It was only later that we realized the scope of the damage. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Marisa, could you sort of take up the story from there? 

>>MARISA KWIATKOWSKI: Sure. So as Steve mentioned you know we came back with hundreds of pages of records that detailed what their policy had been. And so our next step was really looking at the impact of that policy. And so Mark Alesia and Tim Evans and I started backgrounding more than 100 coaches. And we were looking at policies and information to see what the impact of that policy had been on the safety of children. And specifically, we were looking for examples of situations in which USA Gymnastics had been warned about a predatory individual, had not reported it to authorities. And then that individual went on to abuse other athletes. And so that was really our focus at that time. And we pursued that for about four and a half months before our first piece came out. And that piece detailed that policy and the fact that there were - in that first wave of articles that we did - dozens of athletes who had been abused after USA Gymnastics had been word about an individual. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So if I remember right, it was Rachael Denhollander that came forward and first allowed her name to be used. Is that correct? 

>>MARISA KWIATKOWSKI: Actually Rachael read that first article that came out and she came and reached out to us after that. So when we published the first article Larry Nassar was not on our radar. We were aware of who he was but we had not received any allegations of misconduct relating to him at that time. It wasn't until we published the first piece in our investigation that we learned about allegations against Larry. And Rachael was the first person to put him on our radar. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Now if I - again, if I remember right, she called Mark and left a message for Mark. Or was it Tim? Tim? 

>>MARISA KWIATKOWSKI: Actually she contacted all three of us via email. And I initially replied just you know thanking her for reaching out. We had gotten dozens of such emails and phone calls. And then it was in the next week that we were looking at all of the individuals that we needed to investigate that Mark took Rachael's initial email and reached out to her. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. So Tim, what was your first involvement? 

>>TIM EVANS: Loneliness and jealousy. It started out, it was Mark and Marisa for the first couple of weeks or so. And I had written - I kind of felt like I was on the outside looking in. I was starting a new kind of role at the star. And so I got dragged in. And then you know initially we all worked on the backgrounding of the coaches to try to find that cause and effect from the policy. And then after that first story ran, which ran the day before the Olympics - real Olympics - started, again, like Marisa said we were bombarded by other complaints about a number of different coaches and officials in the sport. And Marisa went after a Jane Doe who became Jamie Dantzscher. Mark followed up on Rachael. And my job was to find out looking at Nassar if there was any acceptable medical procedure that would fit the description we had received and then also kind of do the perfunctory outreach to Nassar's attorney to get their no comment. And I sent Nassar an email and I was surprised by the next morning I had two emails back from him wanting to talk to us. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And if you could, you know, I know there's a lot in this that is kind of sensitive, but if you could talk about the medical procedure and the different physicians you were talking to about that. 

>>TIM EVANS: I was talking to osteopathic physicians. And they said that there would be a rare instance where there might be an intravaginal penetration for pelvic floor issues but that it would most likely be with a middle aged woman or a woman after childbirth. It certainly wouldn't be for young girls, teen age or pre teenage girls and not to work on back or leg or arm injuries. And so we also had the interesting thing from what we got from Jamie. And in the movie there's a call from Jessica Howard that they played who called Mark. She was a national rhythmic gymnast. And they all told us the exact same story. You know it was strikingly similar, you know, done to the details. So one of the things that came out and was critical in our thinking was he didn't use any gloves. He often did this without a parents consent or without another person in the room. So we wanted to find out if indeed somebody used a procedure like that, what would the professional standards be. And again everything that Nassar did seemed to be a violation of the standards, which gave us confidence that there was something going on here beyond legitimate medical practice. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. We'll get back to the professional standards and gymnastics here in a minute. But John Manly, you're an attorney. And how does this sort of match up with legal standards? What did you think when you started hearing stories? And who came to you first? 

>>JOHN MANLY: Yeah. So good morning or good afternoon. I'm still on the West Coast. The first person that contacted me was Jamie Dantzscher. And Jamie was a bronze medalist from 2000, an incredibly successful NCAA gymnast. She still has the record for the most perfect tens. And she told me this story about Larry Nassar and I didn't know who Larry Nassar was. And I went on the Internet and he had hundreds of videos posted. And so I did my due diligence. I contacted physicians. I spoke to, you know, I had people review the videos. And I was convinced at the end of it that what he was doing was sexual assault. And so you know, but what drove her out of the shadows was the Indy Star article. And that's when she called me. And basically after that at one point I called Marisa and sort of said hey, do you know who Larry Nassar is? Have you ever heard anything about this? Because I've been doing this for 25 years and you know sometimes there's only one victim but rarely and you know that's when we began to - my office began to put the pieces together. And you know we ended up with representing over 200 of the 333 survivors in the first wave against Nassar. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So I remember, Steve, you said in the documentary at one point you said Larry Nassar, you know, is not our target, USA Gymnastics you know wound up being your target. Could you address that a little bit? Again I think you're muted. 

>>STEVE BERTA: Yes. Really that was the case from the beginning for us. And we came onto Larry Nassar and it became a national story, but we continued to report on the culture within USA Gymnastics which was a pretty harsh situation, which led to these girls were essentially - one of the things that they have to overcome in gymnastics is the extreme fear that they have of performing these very complex moves on, say, a balance beam. And so the way that they did that in our gymnastics community was fear. They actually - the coaches made themselves more fearful than the injury that these kids would have. So it was a very harsh environment for a lot of these elite gymnasts. And Larry Nassar was this kind of nice guy. And I think that comes through in the film very well who, you know, sort of endeared himself and gave them candy and stuff like this to the kids and told them he was their friend. And as we started to see this environment, we started to realize you know how bad it was. And at the time we really didn't even know the extent to which they were hiding things, you know? And so we dug into that. And we later - it came out that Steve Penny, the president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, was working very closely with law enforcement officials in ways to try to keep this story quiet. And this was, you know, became the focus in that second year of our investigation was his relationship with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's head of the Child Abuse Unit, who actually contacted us and tried to discourage us from doing this story. And the lead FBI agent in Indianapolis as well, he had floated sort of a job prospect to him working with gymnastics and things like that. And so we were really looking to try to reform the organization which is based in Indianapolis. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So today on Noon Edition we are talking with three representatives from the Indianapolis Star, IndyStar reporters who broke the USA Gymnastics' mishandling allegations of sexual abuse and also the editor who led the coverage. And we have an attorney, John Manly, who has represented many of the gymnasts and you know many of their names from the Olympics and from previous coverage who were involved in this situation. If you have questions or comments, you can tweet us @NoonEdition. And you can also send questions to news@indianapublicmedia.org. Sara? 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: John, you were talking about just the hundreds of survivors. Do you know how many USA Gymnastics was actually aware of? Were they aware of just how common this was and how often it was happening? 

>>JOHN MANLY: Well they were aware of hundreds because they had them in their files. But the most - I think one of the most troubling things and, you know, it was just alluded to is not only was USA Gymnastics aware that there was likely hundreds of survivors of Nassar and other coaches but law enforcement was as well. In June of 2015, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols, two Olympic gold medalist and a world champion, all told USA Gymnastics that they were assaulted by Larry Nassar. That was subsequently reported to the FBI to Jay Abbott, who was the special agent in charge of the Indianapolis office. Also present was Faegre Baker Daniels lawyers. OK, none of them reported this to Indiana child abuse authorities or anybody else. And the other thing - one of the gymnasts we represent is Simone Biles, Ms. Biles was named as a potential victim by at least one of the three gymnasts who reported, athlete A being Maggie Nichols. She reported that Simone was a victim. It's actually in the notes of Rhonda Fain who took the report. Nobody told Ms. Biles or her parents that Larry Nassar was a molester until 14 months later. I don't understand for the life of me why the Justice Department isn't investigating Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. And we know they're investigating the FBI. But in my view, and I speak for me only, there was an absolute conspiracy here by certain elements of Indiana law enforcement and federal law enforcement to cover this up to protect the USOC. And that's basically the conclusion of the USOC's independent report as well. And given that Indianapolis is, you know, to use Steve Penny's term Sports Town USA, it's very troubling that the head of Child Protection Unit did nothing to stop this. In fact it tried to prevent it from coming out. The other thing I'll point out is to deal with reporting, literally, Indiana's child protection office is in the same building as USA Gymnastics. They literally had to take the elevator down three floors and walk up to the desk and could have reported and they didn't. And so I think you know - and the significance of that is because they didn't report for 15 months, Larry Nassar continued to molest little girls at Michigan State where he continued to be a faculty member and a doctor. He molested hundreds of children after the FBI knew, after USAG knew and after Faegre Baker Daniels knew. None of them reported. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Tim, Steve, Marisa, if you guys were in Indiana at the time, I mean, my understanding is Indiana law requires reporting if you know of child abuse. Isn't that correct? 

>>MARISA KWIATKOWSKI: Indiana law requires anyone who believes a child is being abused or neglected to immediately report it. In fact there's case law in Indiana where they found that four hours was too long. So the law in Indiana is very very clear about what should be done when someone receives an allegation. 

>>TIM EVANS: And just to add to that, the deficiency of the law is that it's a short look back window. And we actually call it - is it two year, Marisa, I believe? 

>>MARISA KWIATKOWSKI: It's two years. Yes. 

>>TIM EVANS: And as this was all rolling out about two months before the two year window told, Penny acknowledged that he waited five weeks to notify the FBI. We called that to the attention of the Marion County prosecutor office, you know, and asked them what they were going to do and they basically ignored us. And they let that window roll out so there's, you know, no opportunity under state law to have charged Penny with failure to report when they were aware of it and for whatever reason not take action. So, you know, that's a troubling situation. And Marisa and I both came to this after covering child abuse and child welfare for years. And the failure to report's a story that we both written more times than we would like to, you know, admit. And it's a common theme. And there's no consequences. And very seldom are people charged. And last I looked it was a Class B misdemeanor, it's like stealing something out of a vending machine. So you know, I think the lawmakers need to take a harder look at that, both the consequences and the look back period because so often victims don't come forward quickly. You know, they have to process it, especially young girls like this may not have known what happened to them was sexual abuse until they, you know, dealt with things as adults or counseling. And that's an area I think we're really weak on in Indiana and much of the country. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: The statute of limitations, was at the same? And you know, we're talking about some of these happening in Michigan and other states as well. Do you all know, Tim? 

>>JOHN MANLY: Yeah unfortunately - this is John Manly - unfortunately most of these states, the statutes are very short. What is interesting is the law subsequent to this case was changed federally. It is now a felony - federal felony - not to report any Olympic or national team athlete under an NGB's care thanks to a bill by Dianne Feinstein and I forget a Republican co-sponsor. So the federal law has changed. It's much tougher than state law. But of course that can't be applied retroactively. And you know the other troubling thing is, you know, you now have I would say probably over a thousand children that we know were molested under USAG's care. And the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, the FBI, nobody, with the exception of the state attorney general's office in Indiana, has done anything. Nobody served a search warrant. Nothing. The Indiana Attorney General's Office has actually been very diligent trying to deal with them civilly through the nonprofit status. But the Indiana law enforcement authorities have shown absolutely no interest in this case, which in my view smells to high heaven. 

>>STEVE BERTA: You know I would add one thing about why those laws are particularly important is that these institutions have an inherent conflict of interest and they view this as a danger that they will be sued by powerful people. And so when a child comes to them - and this is true of a lot of institutions - they're almost more worried about the scandal and the legal consequences of accusing a powerful man than they are of protecting that child. And we've seen it again and again and again across the state. So what that does is it in effect raises the bar on probable cause for these men. And it puts them in a position where these organizations are afraid of them. And that's what happened in this situation. And the only - there's this sort of misnomer out there, it came up in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings when the president said whatever happened to due process. This Supreme Court nominee was accused by a woman of of sexual misconduct. And the president characterized that as a condemnation that shouldn't happen until some sort of due process had occurred. I would argue that in the case of Larry Nassar due process did not occur until it became public. And so these men have to learn to defend themselves. They can't expect these institutions to do it for them. So those reporting laws are essential if we're going to weed this out of our society. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We're about halfway through our program today. You're listening to Noon Edition on WFIU. And we have four guests with - I'm Bob Zaltsberg by the way. And Sara Wittmeyer is with me. But we have four guests - Marisa Kwiatkowski, Tim Evans and Steve Berta who are all investigative journalists who worked on the case that has turned into "Athlete A," a documentary on Netflix, but it's about USA Gymnastics and its, really, failure to treat seriously allegations of sexual abuse. And we have John Manly, an attorney from Manly, Stewart and Finaldi, who has represented many of the women who have been affected by this. If you have questions you can send them to us at news@indianapublicmedia.org. And you can also follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition. Well, I have to say you have given me several different avenues that I'd really like to pursue. I'm going to step back for a minute and go to the idea of fear because in the documentary two other people who are very well known in the gymnastics world, the Karolyis, were prominently factored in. So how important was their role? And what was going on in gymnastics when this was happening? And any of you can take that. 

>>JOHN MANLY: You want me to take it or? 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Sure, John, go ahead if you want to take it. 

>>JOHN MANLY: So yeah, and the film covers this really well. The Karolyis really came to prominence in 1976 because they coached Nadia Comaneci, who really until Simone Biles is widely regarded as the greatest gymnast in the history of the sport. And they were Communist Party members. And they were the hand-picked coaches by Nicolae Ceaușescu, who was the Romanian Communist Marxist Leninist dictator, who I think arguably was the most repressive regime in Eastern Europe unlike many of these other regimes. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, the people took he and his wife out and shot him (laughter). And in 19 - I believe 81, the Karolyis defected. And the, you know, the sort of narrative is that they defected for freedom. But I actually believe they defected - and there's evidence they defected because they had fell out of favor with the regime. But what they brought to this country was the Soviet style coaching method. And in the film there's allegations of physical and emotional abuse that occurred in Romania and, you know, certainly severe psychological abuse and things like food denial, denial of water and an atmosphere of fear. Well, the Karolyis ended up taking over after 1984 with Mary Lou Retton because they took over effectively elite gymnastics in the United States. And from really the '90s all the way through 2016 either Bela Karolyi or Marta Karolyi was in charge of the U.S. team. And Larry Nassar was their handpicked Doctor. Marta clearly relied on him. She was there. And the reason in my view this happened and I can tell you it's my clients' views is because there was such an atmosphere of fear at that ranch. You know, of - you know, you weren't allowed to talk. You weren't allowed to smile. You weren't allowed to say anything. You weren't allowed to express yourself. You weren't allowed to eat what they wanted you to eat. It was absolute and complete control. And they frankly viewed these women not as human beings, but as an apparatus and a machine. And I'm not surprised they viewed them that way. That's the way they were trained themselves. And Larry Nassar was the one bright light at that place. And that's how he got away with he got away with. At the ranch, at the Karolyi ranch that they owned, at night, if you had a problem there was no security guard. If you had a problem, you called Larry. This man was treating women in their rooms, in their beds. He was treating them in their hotel rooms. He was assaulting them their hotel rooms all over the world. And they were under the care of the Karolyis. Parents weren't allowed. And that atmosphere is what allowed this to happen. What's interesting about this is now just this past two weeks the British Gymnastics system is absolutely blowing up with the same types of disclosures that these incredible reporters at the Star disclosed. And what we're finding is that this scandal that started with this one story with these, you know, three or four people in Indianapolis, these brave journalists, has now exploded across the world. And we're finding this atmosphere of abuse in not just U.S. gymnastics, the British Gymnastics and other sports. And it's a movement that's spread across the world. So I hope that answers your story. It was a little long winded. Sorry. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: No, that's fine. I wanted to follow up on that. I think USA Swimming is involved somewhat now. Are they not? Can somebody talk to that? 

>>TIM EVANS: I'll jump in real quick. You know, swimming has had problems and a number of the national governing bodies have had problems. And it continues to roll out. You know, again I think anywhere where there's that much control and particularly with younger athletes, you know, and swimming many of the athletes are young. They're not adults. And that was a change with the Karolyis. Prior to them, lot of the American gymnast Olympians were adults or much older than these 13, 14, 15-year-old girls. The other thing I'd like just to add on to what John and Steve said earlier is, you know, our story kind of in the public's eye became about Nassar. And you know we're the people who exposed Nassar. But the reality is that these problems go much deeper than Nassar. They go much deeper than USA Gymnastics. You know, it's a cultural issue. And you know, sometimes we feel like maybe our message got lost because there was so much Nassar. And he was undoubtedly horrible and probably the worst abuser in the issue of sports and maybe, you know, who knows what time will tell. But again, it's not just Larry Nassar. It was throughout the system. And it wasn't just the Aly Raismans and Simone Biles of the world. It was hundreds of little girls mostly in clubs - gym clubs - across the country in Georgia and New Mexico. It's pervasive. And there are still are those problems still in place within the gymnastics and other sports world's. 

>>STEVE BERTA: So you know, along those lines, Marisa did a story in the same year we did the Nassar story about a guy - I forget his name now - but he... 

>>TIM EVANS: Ray Adams. 

>>STEVE BERTA: ...Ray Adams. He moved from gyms in Missouri to Illinois to Ohio to Florida and was accused in every one of these places he went before they finally caught him with child pornography. And he's now in prison. But it just showed how nowhere along the line did USA Gymnastics - the USA Gymnastics said, well, that's the individual gyms. You know, that's not us. The gyms are privately owned and we can't police that. But they really could have policed it. They could have tracked his movements and known why he was fired at all these gyms. But that was the culture too. It was pass your problem onto somebody else. And I think that permeates that - it did then. I don't know whether it's improved. They would argue I'm sure that it has. But I don't know. That's... 

>>JOHN MANLY: To give you an idea of how bad the culture there was, USA Gymnastics has a foundation that has about 17 million dollars in it. And they rarely give out money. In the late 2000s, they made a pretty sizable ten thousand dollar contribution to a charity in Indianapolis. That was the Jared Fogle foundation. Yes, the same foundation that the Subway guy who's a pedophile was running and using it to have sex with children. That's the one big contribution USA Gymnastics gave. I don't believe that's a coincidence. And I think there was a culture of abuse in that organization. I believe, speaking for John Manly only, that part of that culture still exists. And what I mean by that is that they just don't think it's that bad. And for example they hired a former federal prosecutor Deborah - Tim, help me out here, Deborah... 

>>TIM EVANS: Daniels. 

>>JOHN MANLY: ...Daniels to do a report. And they committed to implement all of her recommendations, but they haven't done it. So you know I don't believe USA Gymnastics should exist. I'm shocked it still does. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: This is probably a good place to just have you explain what happened to Steve Penny. He was USA Gymnastics president. So he didn't come out of this very well, did he? 

>>JOHN MANLY: Are you addressing John or... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: John, yeah, any of you - any of you. But John, go ahead. 

>>JOHN MANLY: Marisa, why don't you take that one? 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. 

>>MARISA KWIATKOWSKI: So Steve Penny resigned as president and CEO of USA Gymnastics in 2017 and then later was arrested and charged with tampering with evidence in Texas relating to documentation that had at one time been at the Karolyi ranch. Now in terms of long term impact for Steve it's hard to say because that case still is pending, so we don't know what the outcome of that criminal case will be. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. So we have... 

>>TIM EVANS: He must've got a golden parachute on his departure from USA Gymnastics. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: ...So we have this case. We have Larry Nassar who was abusing young gymnasts for quite a long time. You've described a cover up. I want to ask where Michigan State University factors into all this because Nassar was there for twenty nine years or something like that - no, he was the gymnastics team doctor for 29 years. I'm not sure how long he was at MSU. And again, whoever has this answer can jump in. But what has Michigan State done to try to make sure that their athletes are safe? And what kind of responsibility did they bear in the Larry Nassar case? Tim? 

>>JOHN MANLY: Tim... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Tim, if you want to try that. 

>>TIM EVANS: I'll start but I think John probably has the better more in-depth answer. You know, obviously when we first started looking into Nassar there was no trail of any kind of history of reports or malpractice claims or lawsuits or criminal charges. But it later came out that folks at Michigan State had been warned as early as the I believe the mid to late '90s that Nassar was molesting children. And there were at least two police reports and at one point Nassar was put on double secret probation and couldn't perform his procedures without another adult in the room and things like that. But none of that was ever really memorialized. And it was also never really enforced. And he continued to molest, you know, children up there into 2016 or beyond. I think there are a number of missed opportunities there early on where for whatever reason claims I'm guessing weren't pursued or weren't taken seriously. And just as real testament, then I'll hand off to John, you know, one of the things that Steve talked about was the due process earlier and, you know, whether people believe molestation survivors and Rachael and the others got very lucky that they found a detective up there named Andrea Munford who - sorry, I'm getting emotional, but, you know... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: She's featured prominently in the video too. 

>>TIM EVANS: ...Who took the approach, she started by believing. And so often these cases had been started by not believing but how can we cover this up or how can we mitigate our damage, how can we not affect our golden goose. And Andrea started by believing and had a prosecutor who supported that. And they took the cases and ran with them. And so I'll let John fill in other details of Michigan State. 

>>JOHN MANLY: Yeah, so Michigan State had a really interesting relationship with Nassar. He was on the faculty there. He was indeed the gymnastics team doctor but he also had a portion of his contract called public outreach. And his contract with Michigan State required him to act as the national team doctor for USA Gymnastics, for the Olympic team doctor for the U.S. Olympic Committee and as a local doctor a Holt High School. And he was molesting children in all those places. And as Tim said there were multiple complaints about him, probably one every two years, including a full blown Title 9 investigation in 2014. And without getting into the details, the long and the short of it is it was all covered up. And what happened at Michigan State is not only did Nassar go to jail, his supervisor, the dean of medicine, was convicted of malfeasance in office and a variety of other crimes and went to jail for a year or two. The gymnastics coach Kathie Klages who it was reported to in the '90s was convicted. And the president of the university was under indictment. And that was dismissed on legal grounds although the attorney general's office is appealing it. There were search warrants executed at Michigan State. There was a thorough criminal investigation of everybody involved. That stands in stark contrast to the lack of action by local law enforcement in terms of the police department in Indianapolis and the FBI. Again the only people who have done anything is the attorney general. And you know the net result is 333 women came forward on Nassar, Michigan State paid a five hundred million dollar settlement in 2018 which is the single largest settlement against a university in American history. And subsequent to that time over two hundred more women have come forward alleging that Nassar abused them. And you know, what we now know is he's the most prolific molester in the history of sport. And with one phone call Steve Penny, the FBI, Scott Blackmun, who was president U.S. Olympic Committee, all knew in June of 2015. With one phone call of the Michigan state police, they could have stopped him in his tracks. And they intentionally didn't - not only did they intentionally not call, they let Nassar say, put out a post that he retired. And he cleared it with Faegre Baker Daniels. This was gonna be the cover story. Nothing has happened to those lawyers. Nothing has happened to Mr. Penny other than a small town Texas D.A. charging him. Nothing in Indiana has happened any of those people. And that's a travesty. And it stinks. And the message that the government and law enforcement Indianapolis is clearly sending is hey if you are a big money sports entity and you're coming to town and you're gonna bring us money, we'll sacrifice our children. And that's really really screwed up. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We've gotten a couple questions. And this is from Patrick. He says, what kind of systemic changes can help prevent this type of widespread abuse, government, police, public, etc., below the Olympic level as well? And then he says is gymnastics particularly affected due to the age of participants? Or is it other factors? Let's see. John, do you want to start? 

>>JOHN MANLY: Sure. You know, my understanding is the Indiana Attorney General's Office has given USA Gymnastics a list of 18 steps they could take. And they haven't taken any of them. A good first step would to fully implement their own recommendations of Deborah Daniels which they haven't done. I think any of the - what people need to understand about the Olympic system is there is one path to the Olympics. If you're a fencer, you have to go through USA fencing. If you're a swimmer, you have to go through USA Swimming. If you're soccer, you go through USA soccer. There's no other path. And in almost all these sports now these people start as children. And even the clubs they're associated with, whether you're in Nome, Alaska, or Indianapolis, Indiana, they're all affiliated with the national governing body which is selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee. So there's young children in every sport. I think elite gymnastics like figure skating is very similar. The women are very young that compete. I mean Simone Biles is 22. And by gymnastic standards she's ancient. Most of these women peak between 16 and 19. And even some as young as 15, so you have children that are completely powerless. They have no parental supervision because they're not allowed. And their dream is to get the Olympics. And they, you know, they're put together with these maniacs from Eastern Europe and this pedophile doctor and you know he runs them over. And that's really the story. I believe it can happen again. I believe in other sports it's happening now because the culture doesn't take it seriously. 

>>STEVE BERTA: You know, I would add, you know, very specifically to what you're talking about, you know, what reforms need to take place. A lot of the pedophiles that we came across that were different from Nassar. Nassar disguised what he was doing as a medical procedure. But many of them didn't. And they would actually try to endear these young women to themselves, often girls, and in certain ways. They would give them gifts. They would see them alone. They would have horse play in the gym where they rolled around on mats and stuff and tickle them. And they would - some of these people would actually live with their coaches because they would be away at a meet. They would stay with them and they would drive them to meets alone and things like that. And USA Gymnastics often when we would talk to them said that they couldn't enforce those kind of rules to say you know, if you get caught, you know, giving gifts to these kids or doing this sort of conduct we can't do anything about it because the individual gyms are privately owned. Well we talked to a lawyer who - Marisa, correct - I can't remember her name, but who works with Olympic sports a lot. She gave us a kind of an interesting quote at one point. She called it - she said that USA Gymnastics could make everybody have a purple lollipop every day to have membership if they wanted to and they wouldn't do it. They chose not to do it. And that was part of the problem that they had, that they wouldn't enforce prohibitions on the very types of behavior that were proven to lead to this sort of thing. Some of that I believe they would argue has been put into place. They did create what they call the safe sports center where all of these complaints go. They would argue, by the way just as a counterpoint to some of what John saying, and, you know, they would argue that they did report to the FBI and that for some mysterious reason that that fulfilled their obligation and for some reason the FBI fell short. That said, I think it's pretty clear that there's a lot of ambiguity as to how much reform is really taking place. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: I want to get in this other question that we just got from a listener wants to know - maybe, Marisa, you can answer this - to what extent are parents responsible. Their underage children were examined with an oversight - without oversight rather. And she says as an adult when I get examined for a prostate there's a witness required in the room. Why wasn't a similar process involving parents utilized? 

>>MARISA KWIATKOWSKI: I think that's a challenging question because there were, as we know from our reporting and what's been out there, that sometimes there were parents in the room. And they were positioned in a way that they couldn't see what was going on. And the child in some cases thought that what was happening was OK because my mom is here, clearly she knows what's going on, that sort of thing. But when you talk about parent responsibility, you know, sort of coming back to what Steve was talking about in terms of reforms, you know, there are a lot of other factors that played a role here. For example one thing that we found again and again with many of these predatory individuals is that they did move from gym to gym. And that when allegations of misconduct came up, they would allow that individual to resign rather than be fired. And so they could go to their next place of employment and, you know, if there's a question on the hiring form that says were you fired, they can say no. And we saw that with Ray Adams . We saw that with other coaches that we'd written about as well. And you know, that's where USA Gymnastics comes in. So there's the individual gym responsibility, the individual responsibilities of these people who receive allegations, but then there's also the responsibility of USA Gymnastics because USA Gymnastics does have the power, as Steve was saying, to revoke the membership of individuals who don't follow the policies that they put into place. And in many cases that we saw that did not happen. 

>>TIM EVANS: Yeah... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Well - oh, go ahead, Tim. 

>>TIM EVANS: ...You know, this isn't a situation of parent shaming or anything like that. You know, but as a parent, you need to be really cognizant of what's going on. And many of these parents trusted these coaches. We also noted that many of these molesters ingratiate themselves with the families. They spent, you know, holidays with them. They helped them work around the house while they were molesting the daughter on the side. But parents do have to be aware. And there are warning signs. A lot of these gyms were closed, parents couldn't come in and watch a practice. You know, parents have got to be alert for the signs of grooming, the gifts to children. A lot of these molesters we saw were photographers and they went to take pictures of little girls and they wouldn't let the parents in because she gets self-conscious when I'm taking her picture with mom watching. And as a parent you've just got to be hyper vigilant. Again I don't think - I'm trying to putting blame on any parents specifically but just as a heads up that, hey, you know, wherever there are kids are going to be people who want to try to molest them. And as a parent you've got to be just on it every minute. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We only have about one minute to go. And I want to get back to the documentary just one more time. And perhaps John can answer this but. "Athlete A," Maggie Nichols, there is a strong indication from the film that she didn't make the Olympic team because she had blown the whistle on Larry Nassar. True? 

>>JOHN MANLY: That's what the film implicates, yeah. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So in the last 30 seconds here, how important is Maggie to the whole story? I mean the film is named after her. 

>>JOHN MANLY: Well I think that Maggie would say my story is not more important or less important than any other survivor, but I mean but for - I think but for these Olympians coming forward, I don't think this would have gotten the attention it deserves. And I think her courage in saying this isn't right - and there's no question whether she would have made the team or not. I'll leave that for other people to debate. I know what I think. But there's no question that they retaliated against her. There's no question that they punished her. There's no question that they went after her and her family because Gina Nichols would not be quiet. And quite honestly, you know, the fact that she didn't even make it as an alternate, given that she's the reigning world champion and where she placed in the trials, tells you a lot. And... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We're going to have to cut you off there, John. We are out of time. But I want to thank all of you for being here. The documentary on Netflix is "Athlete A." The lawyer in the documentary, one of the lawyers, John Manly, attorney for Manly, Stewart and Finaldi Lawyers. Thanks for being here, John. The journalists, Marisa Kwiatkowski, Tim Evans, Steve Berta, Mark Alesia couldn't be with us today, all from the IndyStar. Thank you very much for being with us today. For our producers, Bente Bouthier and John Bailey, for engineers, Matt Stonecipher and Mike Paskash and for my co-host Sara Wittmeyer. I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening to Noon Edition.

gymnastics

(Courtesy of Pixabay)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

Last month, Netflix released the documentary 'Athlete A,' which follows IndyStar's team of investigative journalists through their coverage of USA Gymnastics mishandling sexual abuse allegations.

The IndyStar's investigation of USA Gymnastics began back in 2016, right before the Olympic Games in Rio.

The first story was published August 4, 2016, and it detailed a policy USAG followed that had allowed at least four coaches to continue working after being accused of sexual misconduct.

The Netflix documentary includes interviews with the journalists who broke the story and the roadblocks they faced along the way.

The documentary also includes interviews with former gymnasts who had contacted the IndyStar investigations team after their first story about USA Gymnastics policies on sexual misconduct was published.

The women came forward saying USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, had abused them under the guise of treatment.

The first story about Larry Nassar was published in September following the 2016 Olympics.

During the IndyStar's investigation, hundreds of women came forward with reports that Nassar abused them.

Between 2017 and 2018, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison on childpornography charges, to which he pleaded guilty. In a separate federal case, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County Circuit Court in Michigan, and was sentenced to 175 years in prison.

This week we're speaking with the reporters who worked to cover this story.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at news@indianapublicmedia.org.

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this we will not be able to take callers live on-air.

Guests

Marisa Kwiatkowski, USA Today Investigative reporter

Tim Evans, Investigative and consumer reporter for the IndyStar

Steve Berta, IndyStar investigations team leader

John Manly, attorney for Manly, Stewart & Finaldi Lawyers

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