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Star gymnast sues U.S. Olympic Committee over Nassar sex abuse

By Gina Cherelus and Peter Szekely

(Reuters) - U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman has sued the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics over decades of sexual abuse by former national team doctor Larry Nassar, saying they put "money and medals" before the safety of athletes.

Raisman, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, said in November that she was sexually abused by Nassar, who pleaded guilty last year to molesting female athletes under the guise of medical treatment for nearly 20 years.

"I refuse to wait any longer for these organizations to do the right thing. It is my hope that the legal process will hold them accountable and enable the change that is so desperately needed,” she said in a statement on Friday.

According to her lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, Raisman still suffers from "depression, anxiety and fear" stemming from the abuse. It was filed on Wednesday in California state court in Santa Clara County.

The 23-year-old athlete was among nearly 200 gymnasts, including several Olympic medalists, who spoke out during Nassar's televised sentencing hearings about decades of abuse.

In January and February, in separate sentencing hearings in Michigan, Nassar received prison terms of 40 to 125 years and 40 to 175 years. He is also serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions.

The lawsuit contends that the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics and former executives of the sport's governing body had the authority and mandate to discipline Nassar but never intervened.

The lawsuit said the defendants, including two former USA Gymnastics officials, could have prevented the molestation if they had been serious about their duty to protect young athletes but instead they "put their quest for money and medals above the safety" of the plaintiff and other athletes.

The USOC did not immediately return requests for comment.

USA Gymnastics declined to comment on the lawsuit, but reiterated that it first learned in June 2015 that an athlete had "expressed concern about a procedure by Larry Nassar" and that it reported it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Nassar scandal prompted the entire board of directors at USA Gymnastics to resign, along with the president and athletic director at Michigan State University, where Nassar also worked. It spawned several lawsuits and criminal and civil investigations.

Raisman's lawsuit was the latest civil complaint filed by California attorney John Manly on behalf of former Olympic gymnasts and national gymnastics team members concerning the Nassar abuse.

Manly also filed a lawsuit against the USOC and other defendants in December on behalf of McKayla Maroney, a 2012 Olympic gymnastics gold and silver medalist.

Attorney David Mittleman represents 90 of the 256 plaintiffs already suing USA Gymnastics in federal court in Michigan. On Friday he said the plaintiffs had yet to decide whether to broaden the lawsuit to include the USOC.

The USOC, which has faced months of criticism over the scandal, said on Wednesday that its chief executive officer, Scott Blackmun, was resigning for health reasons. It did not say if the scandal had played a role in Blackmun's departure.

In its statement, USOC outlined reforms aimed at protecting its athletes from abuse.

Raisman said in her statement on Friday that the organizations were still "unwilling to conduct a full investigation, and without a solid understanding of how this happened, it is delusional to think sufficient changes can be implemented."

Last month, USOC Board of Directors Chairman Larry Probst said the U.S. Olympic system had "failed" the hundreds of young female athletes who were sexually abused by Nassar.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus, Peter Szekely, Jonathan Stempel and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jeffrey Benkoe, Frank McGurty)