USA Gymnastics, Michigan State, Dr. Larry Nassar sued by 18 athletes over alleged sexual assaults

Larry Nassar, an osteopathic physician, works with patient Kim Wilson, 15, in East Lansing, Mich., on July 15, 2008. Nassar was a doctor for the U.S. gymnastics, trampoline and tae kwon do teams during the Olympics in Beijing.

Becky Shink/Lansing State Journal

Last Updated Jan 10, 2017 7:36 PM EST

DETROIT - A Michigan doctor accused of sexually abusing gymnasts was sued Tuesday by 18 women and girls, the latest legal action over alleged assaults, mostly at his clinic at Michigan State University.

The lawsuit against Dr. Larry Nassar, Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and a Lansing-area gymnastics club was filed in federal court in western Michigan. It makes claims of civil rights violations, discrimination and negligence.

CBS News usually doesn’t name people who allege sexual abuse, but one of the plaintiffs, Rachael Denhollander of Kentucky, talked publicly about the lawsuit. She said she was assaulted by Nassar in 2000 when she was 15 and visited him because of wrist and back injuries.

Denhollander, who was a gymnast, said she didn’t file a complaint at the time because she believed her “voice would not be heard.” She said Nassar was held in high esteem at Michigan State. He also was affiliated with USA Gymnastics.

The abuse alleged by the 18 women and girls occurred over 20 years. Most were minors at the time and “cloaked with innocence and trust of their youth,” attorney Stephen Drew told reporters.

Nassar now faces at least five lawsuits. Through lawyers, he’s denied the allegations. He’s also charged with possessing child pornography and sexually assaulting a girl at his Holt, Michigan, home and is being held in jail without bond.

In a statement, Michigan State declined to comment on the lawsuit but said campus police are investigating Nassar with state and federal authorities. Outside lawyers also are advising the university on an internal review of Nassar’s clinical work. He was fired in 2016.

In a statement to CBS News, USA Gymnastics said it finds the allegations against Nassar “very disturbing.”

“When we first learned of athlete concerns regarding Dr. Nassar in the summer of 2015, we immediately notified the FBI and relieved him of any further assignments,” the statement read. “USA Gymnastics has fully cooperated with the FBI in its investigation. We find it appalling that anyone would exploit a young athlete or child in this manner, and we are grateful to the athletes who have come forward.”