Larry Nassar case: Did MSU enable a predator?

Ex-sports doctor was allowed to keep working after Title IX investigation in 2014

Larry Nassar
Former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of sexual assault, at his sentencing hearing in Lansing on Jan. 18, 2018. (WLNS/Pool)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — All week, the nation has heard powerful statements from survivors of sexual abuse by former Michigan State University and Team USA Olympic sports doctor Larry Nassar. Many of those survivors placed some of the blame on the institutions that kept him employed for more than two decades.

Target 8 dug into accusations that even as MSU vows to create a better reporting environment for victims of abuse, at least three employees who could have stopped Nassar years ago are still employed.

Tiffany Thomas Lopez suffered a back injury while on a full-ride softball scholarship at MSU. After being referred to Nassar for treatment and assaulted, she told Target 8, she spoke about Nassar’s behavior to two athletic trainers. She described being made to feel like she was crazy for questioning a “renowned” doctor.

“Initially I was told, ‘No, this was not a sexual assault. This is by the book,'” she said during an interview last month. “And then I was told that ‘this is something Dr. Nassar has created to help you and the pain you’re in.’ So it was as if he was the mastermind behind this new treatment.”

Target 8 found the two trainers she spoke to about Nassar — Lianna Hadden and Destiny Teachnor-Hauk — still work for MSU as athletic trainers.

Possibly the biggest missed opportunity to stop a criminal abuser happened in 2014, when Amanda Thomashow reported that Nassar had sexually assaulted her during an appointment. She was in her 20s and working at a pediatrician’s office and knew what he was doing was not a medical procedure.

“It was terrifying and disgusting and I spent days in shock from the violation I had experienced at his hands,” she said in court Wednesday. “I knew he was a praised doctor, a healer of Olympic gymnasts. He was the miracle worker Larry Nassar. And he had just abused me on his appointment table.”

>>Warning: Some viewers may find the video of Thomashow’s statement disturbing because it includes a description of sexual assault.

Eventually, she gathered the courage to report to the incident. That led to a Title IX investigation led by Kristine Moore from MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity. During her powerful statement in court, Thomashow said Moore called her and then asked to meet in person after she detailed the assault.

“I again relayed my story to (Moore) and a police officer and I thought maybe this time I would be taken seriously. They seemed to be horrified by the details of the sexual assault,” Thomashow said in court.

Instead of being taken seriously, Thomashow said, Nassar’s colleagues diminished his actions and the university cleared him to practice again “under new guidelines that were never actually enforced.”

“I knew that he had abused me. I reported it. Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure,” Thomashow said in court.

According to the university’s website, the investigator, Kristine Moore, was promoted to assistant general counsel sometime after closing the investigation in 2014. It also notes her current role focuses primarily in the areas of Clery and Violence Against Women Act compliance.

At the courthouse Wednesday, Target 8 asked MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon about Moore maintaining her employment. She responded that it was not the time nor place to ask questions about the university.

>>App users: Watch Target 8 question Simon.

On Thursday, Target 8 reached out to MSU again for comment. A spokesperson wrote in an email response:

“The very accusations you mention below are part of an ongoing civil lawsuit. It is not appropriate to comment.”

Emails sent directly to Moore, Teachnor-Hauk and Hadden requesting comment did not receive a response.

Nassar has already heard three full days of victim impact statements at his sentencing hearing. There is expected to be at least one more day of those statements before he is sentenced for sexually assaulting several girls — most of them gymnasts — in the Lansing area.

He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges.