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MSU gymnastics coach resigns, denies knowledge of alleged sexual abuse

Michigan State University
John M. Quick
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

After 27 years on the job, Kathie Klages is resigning as head coach of women’s gymnastics at MSU. She denies any knowledge about Dr. Larry Nassar’s alleged years-long, repeated sexual abuse of MSU gymnasts.

Two women have filed court documents claiming they told Klages about Nassar’s alleged assaults back in the 1990s. He wasn’t fired from MSU until earlier this past fall.  

But today, MSU’s athletic director, Mark Hollis, released a letter (which you can read here) to Klages describing the school’s concerns that she may have given student athletes mixed messages this fall about who they “could or should speak with about the situation.”

Hollis says in this letter that Klages presided over a team meeting September 12, 2016 designed to alert student athletes about the pending allegations against Nassar and give them resources.

But instead, Klages focused the meeting on “communications with the media, not law enforcement,” and gave a “passionate defense of Dr. Nassar [that] created an emotionally charged environment for the team.” That, in turn, led to allegations that “members of the women's gymnastics team were discouraged from cooperating with the ongoing law enforcement investigation of Dr. Nassar.”

In a statement released today by her attorney, Klages is described as “deeply disturbed” about allegations made by some 30 women against Dr. Larry Nassar, who was a doctor for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team and a faculty member at MSU.

Two women say they told Coach Klages 20 years ago that Nassar’s "treatment" included penetrating them anally and vaginally with his fingers. In court filings, both women claim they confided in Klages as teenagers in the MSU youth gymnastics program in the late 90s. But Klages downplayed their concerns at the time, they say, allegedly telling one girl that she “misunderstood” the treatments and that reporting those concerns would be “serious.”

A second woman, identified as a Jane Doe, claims Klages then sought her out to ask if she was receiving the same kind of treatment from Nassar. When she said she was, Klages allegedly told her there was “no reason” to bring up Nassar’s conduct.

But Klages denies this.

“The MSU gymnastics team members and coaching staff have been her top priority for her entire career,” Klages’ attorney, Shirlee Bobryk, says in a written statement. “She would never do anything to put any of them in harm’s way.  Dr. Nassar was trusted by Ms. Klages to competently and ethically treat her team members. Had she ever received any information to cast doubt on the appropriateness of that trust in Dr. Nassar, she would have reacted immediately to protect her gymnasts.”

Adding that she can’t comment on specific allegations because of legal advice, Klages “looks forward to being able to testify under oath and fully answer all questions that relate to any involvement she is alleged to have had in the situation.”

But these allegations have made it impossible to do her job, Klages’ statement says, describing them as a “distraction to her professional responsibilities and detrimental to her overall well-being. Out of respect to the university and the gymnastics program in particular, Ms. Klages believes it is in everyone’s best interests for her to retire from her current position at MSU."

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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