As McKayla Maroney trained at the 2012 London Olympics, she says it was now-convicted child molester Larry Nassar who would sneak food to her when the strict coaches weren’t looking — and used the “messed up” gymnastics culture as a way to further manipulate.
“I think I would’ve starved at the Olympics if I didn’t have him bring me food,” Maroney, 22, told NBC News, in an excerpt of an interview that aired on Today Thursday morning, adding that she felt like she “needed” Nassar. “Your coaches are just always watching you. And wanting to keep you skinny. There’s just other things about the culture that are also messed up that he used against us.”
Maroney says the former USA Gymnastics doctor would “buy me a loaf of bread” in an effort to groom her and take advantage of the unhealthy conditions.
The former Olympian spoke to Savannah Guthrie in her first-ever television interview about the abuse for a Dateline special airing this Sunday evening. The special also features the first-ever TV interview with famed gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi about the Nassar scandal. An excerpt of Maroney’s interview also aired on Today Wednesday morning.
“I think I would’ve starved at the Olympics if I didn’t have him bring me food.” @McKaylaMaroney opens up about the competitive gymnastics culture to @savannahguthrie. More on @datelineNBC Sunday night pic.twitter.com/JlWluizD8g
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 19, 2018
“He told me he was going to do a checkup on me, and that was the first day I was abused,” the Olympian said in the clip that aired Wednesday morning, alleging that Nassar molested her hundreds of times. “ every time I saw him.”
RELATED: Olympian McKayla Maroney Says Child Molester Larry Nassar Abused Her ‘Hundreds’ of Times
Officials with USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee have praised Maroney for her bravery. USA Gymnastics apologized to the athletes in a statement and said officials are “committed to doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again.”
Maroney initially revealed the alleged abuse in an October Twitter post, writing then that the abuse lasted until she left the sport.
“He said that nobody would understand this and the sacrifice that it takes to get to the Olympics, so you can’t tell people this,” Maroney recalled to NBC. “He didn’t say it in a way that was mean or anything like that.
“I actually was like, ‘That makes sense. I don’t want to tell anybody about this.’ And I didn’t believe that they would understand.”
Maroney isn’t the only athlete to open up about the conditions in the sport that enabled the child molester. In March, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman described the famous Karolyi Ranch as “disgusting” and told the Washington Post that there was a culture of fear at the world-famous training camp. Raisman has also filed suit against the USOC and USA Gymnastics, alleging that the organizations failed to implement safeguards at the Karolyi ranch, leaving the gymnasts vulnerable to abuse at Nassar’s hands.
“The shower smelled like eggs, and we would bring sandals to wear because it was so disgusting,” Raisman told the Post. “After you showered you were like, ‘I almost feel dirtier than before.’ ”
She added: “Nobody wanted to be the one who was difficult. Now that I’m away from the sport it makes me so angry that we were afraid to ask for soap.”
Earlier this year, the disgraced former gymnastics doctor received lengthy sentences in Michigan’s Eaton and Ingham counties for sexually abusing girls and women for several years. In both hearings, several victims read emotional impact statements to the court.
Nassar has been called “the most prolific child molester in history.”
More than 250 women and girls have accused Nassar of assault, including gymnasts Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas.