Gymnast from Jacksonville details alleged abuse by U.S. women's national gymnastics team doctor

By: Brittney Donovan , Action News Jax

Updated:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A woman from Jacksonville and two other former star gymnasts spoke publicly on "60 Minutes" on Sunday about alleged abuse by a U.S. National Gymnastics Team doctor.

Jessica Howard of Jacksonville was the U.S. National Champion in rhythmic gymnastics from 1999 to 2001.


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She said she went to Karolyi Ranch outside Houston once for medical treatment.  

Rhythmic gymnasts do not generally train at the ranch; artistic gymnasts do. Howard said she went to the ranch for a severe hip problem.

“I was 15 years old and I had a hip problem. A very severe hip problem. And USA Gymnastics suggested that I go to the Karolyi Ranch to work with their doctor,” Howard told Jon Lapook, of "60 Minutes."


On 60 Minutes, former gymnasts allege sexual abuse


The Karolyi Ranch is a mecca for elite gymnasts pursuing their Olympic dreams. 

It’s run by legendary coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi and is where members of the U.S. national team for artistic gymnastics come roughly once a month for several days of intensive training. 

Howard and two other women who appeared on "60 Minutes" said they stayed in cabins on the property.

Dr. Lawrence Nassar provided medical treatment there.

Nassar was one of the most renowned doctors in the world of gymnastics. As a trainer or physician, he worked with Olympic and National Women’s artistic gymnastic teams for more than two decades.

“He started massaging me. And he had asked me not to wear any underwear. And then he just continued to go into more and more intimate places,” Howard said.

She said she remembered thinking something was off.

“But I didn't feel like I was able to say anything because he was, you know, this very high-profile doctor. And I was very lucky to be at the ranch working with him,” Howard said.

She told Lapook that other girls in her cabin said he also touched them inappropriately.

“I remember being uncomfortable because of the area. But in my mind, I was like, ‘If this helps, I'll do anything,’” Jeanette Antolin, an artistic gymnast, said.

Antolin said she never complained to anyone about it.

“It was treatment. You don't complain about treatment,” she said.

Antolin said she regularly trained at the ranch and saw Nassar over a period of many years. 

Howard said she had just one bad experience with Nassar over a period of five or six days.

More than 60 women have come forward with complaints against Nassar so far.

The women’s attorney is suing USA Gymnastics for failing to protect the women and said he believes hundreds of athletes may have been abused beginning as early as the 1996 Olympic Games. 

Nassar is currently in custody on charges of criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography unrelated to the Gymnastics team.

He has pleaded not guilty.


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