GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Michigan State University athletic director says the campus culture allowed former sports doctor Larry Nassar to sexually abuse his patients for years.
“This is the most egregious case I’ve ever heard of or seen in this country,” Merrily Dean Baker told 24 Hour News 8.
Nassar was a well-respected doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics for more than 20 years. Now, more than 265 girls and women — high school, collegiate and Olympic athletes among them — say he sexually assaulted them under the guise of providing medical treatment.
Baker has been watching the progression of and fallout from the Nassar case from her Florida home.
She helped shape federal Title IX regulations that first went into effect in the 1970s. Since leaving her post as MSU’s athletic director in 1995, she has served as an expert witness in Title IX litigation cases.
“In my estimation, without equivocation, I think that Michigan State has been in violation of its compliance with Title IX,” she said. “Anytime someone employed by a school is told about alleged sexual harassment or abuse or assault or violence, the employee’s obligation, their legal mandate, is to report the information to a supervisor.”
Michigan State’s attorneys have been arguing otherwise. They’ve filed a motion to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of several victims, claiming the women didn’t report Nassar to the right people.
“That’s absolutely a scapegoat,” Baker said.
In 2014, Amanda Thomashow reported Nassar to MSU after she said he molested her during an appointment. That triggered a Title IX investigation, but it didn’t lead to any significant change. Nassar was allowed to keep seeing patients.
“I don’t think their investigation was done properly,” Baker said of the 2014 case. “I don’t think it was done completely.”
That wasn’t the only time someone complained about Nassar. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit laid out nine other instances over the course of 18 years in which someone reported him — directly to the police, in one case — and nothing was done.
“The bigger question to me is when a coach was told this by a student athlete, a gymnast in 1997, why wasn’t it stopped then?” Baker wondered.
“Had I known that you were such close friends, I would’ve never told” former MSU women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages about the abuse, that athlete, Larissa Boyce, said in court last month. “She protected you (Nassar) over me, a child.”
Recent ESPN reports allege a culture of cover-ups in MSU’s athletic department, one in which everyone is urged to keep sexual assault allegations involving student athletes quiet.