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Ex-Michigan State Coach Charged With Lying to Investigators in Nassar Case

Kathie Klages in 2016, when she was a gymnastics coach at Michigan State University.

A former Michigan State University gymnastics coach was charged on Thursday with two counts of lying to the authorities about whether she knew that Lawrence G. Nassar, a former team doctor for the university and U.S.A. Gymnastics, had sexually abused numerous young women for decades.

The coach, Kathie Klages, was aware of Dr. Nassar’s abuse for more than 20 years, according to the Michigan attorney general’s office. The charges came seven months after the doctor was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, and he faces other lengthy sentences in federal and state courts.

Ms. Klages was a coach at the university for 27 years before retiring last year. She left her post after she was accused of trying to cover up allegations of Dr. Nassar’s abuse of young athletes. The doctor’s victims included Olympians who went public with their stories.

Emily Guerrant, a spokeswoman for Michigan State, said in a statement on Thursday, “The university was not present when she gave statements to the Michigan State Police, so we have no comment on what she told investigators or the charges announced today.”

Lindsey Lemke, 22, a former Michigan State gymnast who was coached by Ms. Klages, recalled feeling that her coach was trying to manipulate her when she told her in 2016 that Dr. Nassar had sexually abused her.

“She was trying to defend Larry,” Ms. Lemke said in an interview. “She was saying that what he was doing was medical treatment and was helping. She said that I needed to do my research to make sure that I wasn’t giving any false information to the police.”

“They are very good friends,” Ms. Lemke added. “She wanted me to truly believe that Larry was helping me.”

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How Did Larry Nassar Get Away With It?

Lawrence G. Nassar, the sports doctor accused of sexually abusing hundreds of young women, committed his crimes with impunity for decades. Here’s how.

“There is now nowhere left for you to hide, Larry.” Hundreds of women say Larry Nassar sexually abused them. It’s one of the worst sexual abuse scandals in the history of sports. And it went on for more than two decades. How did he get away with it? “My real interest, of course, with dance and gymnastics is my role with U.S.A. Gymnastics.” Nassar had celebrity-like status in the elite gymnastics and sports medicine world. U.S.A. Gymnastics gave him countless awards. He was inducted into Michigan State University’s hall of fame and governors appointed him to state licensing boards. He even secured a patent for an ankle brace he invented. Nassar’s patients felt honored to be treated by the best of the best. Nassar typically carried out his abuse under the guise of a medical treatment. He hijacked a rare pelvic therapy, that involves vaginal penetration, and used it to treat all sorts of ailments. He ignored protocol, such as using a glove, asking consent or having a medical chaperone present. “And when I was 14 years old, I tore my hamstring in my right leg. This was when he started performing the procedure that we are all now familiar with.” “The next visit was for my shoulder, which I then found out my hips were out of alignment, which then made my spine and my pelvic bone out of alignment as well. And this is when Larry decided that it was medically acceptable to violate a 16-year-old girl.” When confronted by parents, coaches, and eventually investigators, Nassar said patients may have misunderstood his therapy. Medical colleagues deferred to his expertise After a 2014 investigation cleared his name, Nassar was just reminded to follow procedures. In the training camps of elite gymnastics, where coaches are notoriously hard on athletes, Nassar manipulated girls into believing he was a trusted friend, advocate and even their protector. “You have to protect your athletes. You have to let them know that we care. You have to, not let them know, but let them feel it. Let them understand it. Let them breathe it.” ”He put my picture up on his wall with Olympians. I thought I mattered to Larry.” “You had me so wrapped around your finger, and I still trusted you so much. Even when I was a sophomore in college, and you were the only person I called to help me make the decision to end my gymnastics career due to my injuries. Nassar won over family members by offering a free treatment, a quick diagnosis, or often the pretense of transparency. “At the end of the appointment in your basement, I remember asking, ‘Do I owe you anything?’ Now it seems kind of sick. You got what you wanted.” He frequently molested young girls with parents in the room, using a draped towel or practiced positioning to conceal where his fingers were massaging. “What kind of a person has the audacity to sexually assault a child in front of their mother?” It’s still unclear who knew what when, but for decades Nassar’s employers focused on their reputations and failed to safeguard the young women in their care. When U.S.A. Gymnastics got a complaint about Nassar in 2016, the organization paid the gymnast $1.25 million to stop her from speaking about the abuse. Complaints about Nassar’s treatments reached officials at Michigan State University as early as 1997, The Detroit News has reported. That’s 20 years before the prized doctor was terminated. MSU has said that no one at the University believed that Nassar committed sexual abuse prior to the newspaper reports in the summer of 2016. Nassar’s victims say that if the university had investigated the first complaint, scores of young girls may have escaped the doctor’s abuse. “Larry Nassar did not arise in isolation. Rather we saw the worst sexual assault scandal in history unfold because a predator was left in power for decades. Despite warning signs, despite red flags, despite direct reports of assault.”

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Lawrence G. Nassar, the sports doctor accused of sexually abusing hundreds of young women, committed his crimes with impunity for decades. Here’s how.CreditCredit...Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal, via Associated Press

When Ms. Klages spoke with Michigan State Police detectives, she denied having been told of Dr. Nassar’s sexual abuse before 2016, prosecutors said. Witnesses have said that they reported the abuse to her as far back as 20 years ago.

In 2017, a woman named Larissa Boyce who was joining a federal lawsuit said in court documents that she had told Ms. Klages about Dr. Nassar in the late 1990s.

Lawyers for Dr. Nassar did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Efforts to reach Ms. Klages’s legal representatives were unsuccessful.

The women who accused Dr. Nassar of sexual abuse said that it went on for decades and that most of it happened while he was working for U.S.A. Gymnastics and at Michigan State. At the doctor’s sentencing hearings, hundreds of women spoke about being abused or had their statements read aloud.

U.S.A. Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport, is still grappling with upheaval, with prominent gymnasts calling for more transparency and accountability. Congress has questioned the organization’s president, Kerry Perry, and Michigan State’s interim president, John Engler, over the scandal.

Michigan State has also been heavily criticized for its handling of the case, and the scandal forced Lou Anna K. Simon to resign as president in January.

In June, Dr. Nassar was also charged with six counts of second-degree sexual assault on a child after an investigation involving a gymnastics training center near Huntsville, Tex., that is owned by Bela and Martha Karolyi, the former coordinators and coaches of the United States women’s gymnastics team.

Ms. Lemke said on Thursday, “A lot of people told me I was disgusting, disrespectful, and that all I wanted was attention.”

She added, “I am lucky enough to see one of the people who enabled my abuser be held accountable, and some people never get that.”

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