McKayla Maroney has opened up about the most terrifying night of Larry Nassar’s abuse, saying she thought the former USA Gymnastics doctor was going to ‘kill’ after he molested her in a hotel room when she was 15.
Speaking to Elle in a new interview, the 25-year-old former Olympic gymnast recalled being sexually abused by the pedophile doctor at one of her first training camps when she was 13.
After he molested her, Maroney said he told her: ‘”You know, to be a great athlete, we sometimes have to do things that other people wouldn’t do.”
‘Basically, he was silencing me and saying, “This is what it takes to be great.”‘
Candid: McKayla Maroney, 25, struck a pose for Elle magazine while opening up about the difficulties she has faced over the past decade
Opening up: In her interview with the magazine, the former Olympic gymnast reflected on former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse
Maroney detailed how the infamous Karoyli Ranch — the defunct national team training center run by former team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi — helped foster the abuse.
Located in a remote area of Texas outside of Houston, the country’s top female gymnasts would train at the facility, where Maroney said they were treated like they ‘were in a military camp.’
‘It was a perfect breeding ground for Larry Nassar to sneak in,’ she explained. ‘Our coaches were so focused on us being skinny and us being the best to get the gold medal for their own ego.’
Maroney said she would try tightening her legs and begging Nassar to work on other parts of her body to avoid the abuse when she had to meet with him.
‘We would be like, “No, don’t do that. We just want you to work on our backs, our shins, our feet,”‘ she recalled. “And we’d be annoyed. We’d be mad. We all hated it.’
Maroney said she and her teammates would talk about the abuse in ‘little ways,’ but they didn’t fully comprehend what was happening to them.
Painful memories: Maroney recalled being sexually abused by the pedophile doctor at one of her first training camps when she was 13
Heartbreaking: The athlete said that Nassar abused her in a hotel room in Tokyo when she was 15, detailing how she was alone, naked, and crying
‘We never said, “We’re being molested,” but we would say, “It’s like we’re being fingered.” We’d even say it was time to go get fingered by Larry,’ she recalled.
‘But we were 13 and didn’t even know what being fingered was at the time. We were really young and naïve from living in a gym.’
Maroney’s ‘Fierce Five’ teammate Aly Raisman, who was also abused by Nassar, told Elle: ‘We were being abused at the same location, same day. We helped each other survive.’
A year before the 2012 Olympics in London, Maroney said Nassar gave her a sleeping pill on a flight to Tokyo with the team, and she ended up alone with him in his hotel room.
Maroney, who was 15 at the time, recalled being naked and sobbing as he abused her for 50 minutes, saying he ‘blacked out — kind of like he forgot how long he was doing it, because the whole time he’s pleasuring himself, he’s enjoying it.’
She was ‘looking around for a knife,’ she explained, ‘because I thought he was going to kill me that night. I was like, There’s no way he is going to let me go after what he just did to me. What’s stopping me from saying he did this to me? But then he was like, “Okay, you can go to bed.”‘
Maroney said she wanted to tell someone what happed the next morning, but she was ‘surrounded by intimidating coaches and didn’t have my mom with me’.
Terrified: Maroney recalled fearing Nassar was going to ‘kill’ her that night because she thought there was ‘no way’ he’d let her go after what he had just done to her
Silenced: Maroney said she wanted to tell someone what happed the next morning, but she was ‘surrounded by intimidating coaches and didn’t have my mom with me’
‘I felt completely unsafe,’ she explained. ‘And that was the first time I was like, “That was abuse.”‘
The FBI reached out to the gymnast about Nassar in 2015, and during her interview, she detailed the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of the doctor, but nothing happened. Maroney retired from gymnastics a year later at age 20.
Last month, the Justice Department’s inspector general released a scathing report about the FBI’s 14-month-long failure to adequately investigate sexual abuse allegations against Nassar, which allowed him to assault at least 70 more women and girls before he was finally arrested.
In October 2017, Maroney broke her NDA with USA Gymnastics and became the first of the Fierce Five to go public with her story in a statement shared on Twitter, saying she was repeatedly molested by Nassar.
‘It started when I was 13 years old, and one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport,’ she wrote. ‘It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was “treated.” It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver.’
Looking back: Maroney (pictured with Nassar at the 2013 World Championships in Belgium) said she and her teammates would talk about the abuse in ‘little ways’
Horrific: Maroney and her ‘Fierce Five’ teammates Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, and Kyla Ross (pictured a the 2012 London Olympics) were all abused by Nassar
Nassar sexually abused more than 150 women over the course of his 30-year career, and the disgraced doctor was sentenced to 175 years in prison in 2018.
After coming forward about the abuse, Maroney developed an eating disorder while trying to find a way to control her life.
‘I already had that obsessive control thing, so it just switched from gymnastics to food,’ she said, sharing that she once starved herself for three days in a row.
‘I forgot I had ever even been successful at gymnastics, because I went from being great to feeling like, “Oh my God, I’m ugly, I’m gaining weight, I’m suffering with food, and I just went through all this abuse.”‘
At the recommendation of her chiropractor, Maroney sought help from the Church of the Master Angels (CMA), a group based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina that some have accused of being a ‘cult.’
She told Elle that when she attended her first event in 2016, the faith-based community’s leader Master John helped her feel ‘immediate’ relief, so much so that she went back twice in 2018. Her mom has also attended a CMA event.
Shut down: Maroney said the defunct Karolyi Ranch (pictured in 2015) where the national team used to train ‘was a perfect breeding ground for Larry Nassar to sneak in’
Abuse: Maroney (pictured during the London Olympics) previously said she was made to compete with her injuries because Nassar lied about them to her coaches
‘It’s obviously not for everyone,’ she said. ‘If you want to go to a healer, go to a healer. If you like psychics, whatever, do that. At the end of the day, it’s my choice.’
Earlier this year, The Daily Beast published an expose about CMA and the gymnast’s involvement with the headline: ‘Olympian McKayla Maroney Ensnared in Mystery “Cult” the Church of the Master Angels.’
The article detailed how CMA charges $10,000 for a four-day ‘elite’ course, and some of Master John’s followers believe he can heal illnesses such as HIV. The outlet pointed out that Maroney wears a large silver pendant necklace from CMA that can cost up to $2,000.
However, Maroney insisted she is not in a cult, telling Elle that she hasn’t been to one of Master John’s workshops since the start of the pandemic.
‘All my friends were like, “Wait, this is so crazy. You’re in a cult?”‘ she said. ‘I’ve always believed in God and more than just myself. But I’m not religious; I am not in a cult. None of it is true. The article just attacked me over a necklace that I had been wearing. I do meditation and pray, but there’s nothing weird that I do.’
Maroney noted that she does still wear the necklace to protect herself against evil in the same way someone would wear a Kabbalah bracelet.
Faith: The athlete also opened up about seeking help from the Church of the Master Angels (CMA), a group based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Hitting back: Maroney insisted she is ‘not in a cult,’ saying she hasn’t attended a CMA event since before the pandemic, though she still wears the church’s necklace
‘There are dark people and darker energies that see you and don’t wish you well,’ she said. ‘I like to feel like I’m protected in some way.’
In 2019, Maroney suffered the loss of her father, Mike, who was secretly battling an addiction to pain pills. He had vowed to get clean and while attempting to detox without medical supervision, he died of a heart attack.
She initially dealt with the loss by starving herself, but then she started writing her feelings down and turning her words into song lyrics.
In addition to her music, Maroney has been open about her recovery on her new health and wellness Instagram account ‘Glohe,’ [Glowy] and she has also taken on new projects.
She is working on a memoir and recently launched the McKayla Collection on NFT marketplace OpenSea, where her ‘Not Impressed’ meme from the 2012 Olympics was up for auction.
Earlier this month, Maroney slammed Team USA and USA Gymnastics over the abuse she suffered at the hands of Nassar and the horrors she endured as a member of the national team.
In a series of Instagram posts and tweets, she lifted the lid on the dark realities that she faced as a young gymnast, claiming that she was left ‘starving’ by her Team USA coaches as a teenager and verbally abused about her injuries because Nassar had lied about the severity of them.
Honest: Earlier this month, Maroney detailed the abuse she endured while competing for Team USA, revealing she had a broken foot, broken nose, and a concussion at the 2012 Olympics
Furious: In a series of tweets, Maroney also slammed USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee over the abuse she endured at Nassar’s hands at the 2011 World Championships
Claims: Maroney accused USAG and USOC of failing to look after her, revealing she raised the alarm about Nassar’s abuse with her coach, only to be ‘yelled at’ for speaking out about him
‘So, @USAGym and USOC aka @TeamUSA, when I was under “your care” in Tokyo [at the 2011 World Championships] at 15, and my parents weren’t allowed to stay in my hotel or see me in person… When I was all alone, naked, with Larry Nassar on top of me for 50min [bawling]. Who’s fault is that?’ she wrote on Twitter.
Maroney said USA Gymnastics banned athletes’ parents from spending time with them during competition, writing: ‘Parents were seen as a distraction, we would get in trouble if we spoke to them.
Criminal: Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison in 2018
‘My mom would send me packages of food to my hotel in Tokyo, because I was starving. She did everything she could to help me.’
Maroney said she raised the alarm with Team USA coach John Geddert after Nassar abused her in Japan, recalling how she was ‘yelled at’ for speaking out about the doctor.
That culture of silence was also passed down to the gymnasts on the team, according to Maroney, who accused an unnamed older teammate of yelling at her when she spoke out about Nassar’s abuse.
‘I was told to “shut the f**k up, and don’t ever say anything like that about Larry Nassar again” by an older teammate I looked up to,’ she shared.
‘That scared the hell out of me, so I listened, and didn’t say anything for a long time. I just suppressed it until it came up again in 2015.’
She also recalled how she was forced to compete in the London Games in 2012 with a broken foot, a concussion, and a busted nose after Nassar lied to coaches about the extent of her injuries.