Olympic gold medalists Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian on Thursday came forward as the latest of the hundreds of athletes who fell victim to serial sexual abuser and former USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, who was sentenced in February to a maximum of 235 years in prison.
The gymnasts, who are now 21 and currently members of the NCAA champion UCLA gymnastics team, appeared on CBS This Morning to tell their stories of abuse.
“Being on national team for all those years, we were really silenced,” said Ross. “We didn't really have a voice and say as athletes.”
“I’ve come to the point in my life this is something I want to share my story and move on,” she told The Associated Press. “We don’t want to be viewed as victims. This is something we have to grow through.”
Both women said they were moved after nearly 200 girls and women read victim-impact statements at two emotional sentencing hearings in January, in which the 54-year-old Nassar faced the survivors he had preyed on. More than 300 victims have come forward to accuse the former Michigan State physician who worked for decades with student-athletes.
Nassar was “almost like a family member,” said Kocian. "He would on international trips, he would bring us food. Or he would just kind of be the person that would always ask, 'how are you doing?'”
Both women also joined in the call for USA Gymnastics to better support the young women who suffered at Nassar’s hands.
“It’s been saddening to know that a lot of gymnasts have gone through this event and [USA Gymnastics] 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.”
In a statement, USA Gymnastics told CBS News: “USA Gymnastics support is unwavering for Kyla, Madison and all athletes who courageously came forward to share their experiences. Their powerful voices and stories will continue to be a basis for our future decisions.”
Olympic champion Simone Biles also called out USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry on Wednesday for his continued silence on the issue—and whether the organization has fixed the systemic problems that enabled years of abuse. Biles has said she was also abused by Nassar.
“Hopefully it’s going in the right direction, but nobody can know until Kerry Perry speaks up. So it’s kind of hard,” she said.
The Associated Press reports that Ross and Kocian have joined the more than 150 plaintiffs who have joined together in civil lawsuits against Michigan State. Both women also reportedly plan to sue the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics.