CINCINNATI – Mary Lee Tracy says she trusted Larry Nassar like she would her father or her brother, but she was fooled by a ”master manipulator.”
Tracy said on Thursday she feels she is the right person to fill her new appointment with US Gymnastics and wants to keep the job. But Tracy also said she would resign if what she calls “cyber bullying” toward her doesn’t stop.
Speaking at her Fairfield, Ohio gym, the owner and coach of Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy strongly condemned Nassar and didn’t deny the positive comments she made about the since-convicted sexual abuser to Scripps affiliate WCPO in Cincinnati in December 2016. Tracy’s two-year-old comment sparked a controversy this week when Aly Raisman, an Olympic champion and Nassar survivor, went on Twitter and protested Tracy’s new national post as Elite Development Coordinator.
As much as Tracy said she wanted the job, she also said she has received three “fairly threatening emails” and one that said she “should be in a jail cell next to Larry Nassar.” She has also been vilified on social media to the point that she has already told US Gymnastics she would not keep job if it means hurting her family.
“What I feel I need to say is that when I saw Aly putting out some things about something I said two years ago as this was all coming out, that was my truth,” Tracy said about her 2016 comments about Nassar, the former national team doctor now accused of sexually assaulting up to 250 women and girls and serving up to 165 years in prison.
“Larry had been treating my athletes for well over 25 years and had served them very well and had helped me and my athletes return to action," she said Thursday. "He had been someone that we all unfortunately had trusted and depended on, so when I was asked about my experience with him, that’s what I said. So I’m not denying that I said that.
“Would I say that anymore? Absolutely not … The man is a monster. But at that moment, I looked at him like I would my dad or my brother. That was the level of trust I had.
“But as we all find out, these people are that good. They are master manipulators. And he didn’t just fool me and all these athletes, he fooled lots of parents, lots of coaches, lots of administrative people.
"For him to have abused the hundreds of young women that he abused, he was beyond evil, he was beyond manipulative, you can’t even put into words.
“I just want people to know that there is no way I would have someone like that working with my athletes if I even had an inkling he was a sexual abuser.”
Before Tracy talked to WCPO in December 2016, Nassar’s secret life as a pedophile and sex offender had already started to become public.
Two years earlier in 2014, a Michigan State graduate had complained that Nassar, the doctor for the university gymnastics team, sexually assaulted her during a medical exam. But MSU cleared Nassar.
In July 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to three federal charges after investigators said he possessed at least 37,000 graphic videos and images of child pornography, including images of prepubescent children engaged in sex acts.
In August 2016, a former Michigan State gymnast filed a criminal complaint that Nassar sexually abused her during treatment for lower back pain.
In September 2016, two gymnasts publicly accused Nassar of sexual abuse in an Indianapolis Star report. Michigan State fired Nassar a week later.
In November 2016, Nassar was charged in Ingham County, Michigan (home to Michigan State) with three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13. Prosecutors said they had received about 50 complaints of sexual abuse by Nassar.
The next month, Tracy said this about Nassar:
“My Olympians have all worked with Larry. We were all defending him because he has helped so many kids in their careers. He has protected them, taken care of them, worked with me and worked with their parents. He’s been amazing."
Raisman responded Tuesday with this tweet:
USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past. This is a slap in the face for survivors, & further confirmation that nothing at @USAG has changed. What a profound disappointment! https://t.co/lklLiqsOCJ
— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) August 29, 2018
Asked Thursday to explain what she knew and when she knew it, Tracy replied:
“Four months before that, we first started to hear the possibility was something going on that we were not aware of – something bad with Larry Nassar,” Tracy said. “My kids were no longer seeing him. We were no longer using him. But I still to this moment, when I was asked those questions, I had not had a bad experience with him. I never negated anyone else’s experience. But neither was I going to make up something that didn’t happen.
“Those awful things I had heard, none of my athletes had told me that. I asked many of them if this had happened to them. So again, speaking my truth and my experience, I just stated the facts as I would state them now. The difference is, I am sad, hurt and disappointed that I was fooled and trusted this man.”
Tracy has a solid record as a gymnastics coach – from the youngest kids to Olympians. Tracy coached Amanda Borden of Cincinnati and Jaycie Phelps of Greenfield, Indiana, to the gold-medal winning 1996 Olympic Team, known as the “Magnificent Seven.” Tracy was one of the coaches of that Olympic team.
She said she was eager to take on a new challenge as Elite Development Coordinator.
“I’ve been preparing for this opportunity my whole life … I’ve been coaching gymnastics for over 40 years and now I have an opportunity to help coach coaches,” Tracy said. “I have a chance to take all these lessons – the good and the bad – from the past years and make it better.”
But she said she won't do it if it would hurt her family.
“I’m at a point where – I’m a strong lady, but I have a great family, and none of this is worth risking my family or watching what my family is going through right now while people are saying these awful things about me," Tracy said.
“I’ll decline the position, resign, if this doesn’t stop because it’s not worth it to me.”
Tracy called herself “a spiritual person” and said she’s “trying not to be reactive and I’m trying to be at peace until it’s clear what I should do.”
Asked if she meant reaching a decision in a week or a month, Tracy said:
“A week. I’m not going to wait until people drag me through the mud."
When it was pointed out to her there wasn't much support for her on Twitter – none of the 1996 Olympians had posted there – Tracy responded, "Have you looked at my Facebook page?"
In fact, she has posted three times this week and has gotten more than 1,000 likes and nearly 800 comments.
“People can say anything right now and nobody’s going to defend them because if you defend them they’re going to get slammed," Tracy said. "That’s why a lot of time on Twitter people don’t respond because their name could get drug through the mud like anybody else."
WCPO asked Tracy what she would say to Raisman and here's what Tracy said:
"I would say, Aly, I am really sorry for what has happened to you. I am disgusted by what has happened and I am sorry. I am also sorry that at the beginning of this I had anything positive to say about that man, but I want you to know, Aly, that I was only speaking on my truth, my experience, I was not speaking about your experience or anyone’s else’s experience. If you ask me today how I feel, he is a horrible, manipulative monster and he is serving his time."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Nassar pleaded guilty to three federal charges after investigators said he possessed at least 37,000 graphic videos and images of child pornography, including images of prepubescent children engaged in sex acts in July 2016. The guilty plea came in July 2017.