319: Aly and Lynn Raisman

Aug 28, 2018 | GymCastic, Interviews, Podcast

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THE ALY INTERVIEW

Aly’s experience, in her own words. On August 19th, the morning before the women’s final at US Championships, Jessica had the opportunity to visit the amazing Raisman vegetable garden and spend the morning with Aly and Lynn Raisman, speaking about…well…everything—from USAG’s insane official policies about abuse, to Steve Penny’s shady business dealings, to what Aly really thinks about Martha. Plus,

  • How Aly feels about being victim-shamed by coaches on social media
  • Why she decided to come forward in a book, and getting misquoted in the media
  • The less-than-warm welcome she received from USAG and Ron Galimore in 2017
  • A mysteriously canceled NBC interview 
  • Why it’s impossible to trust SafeSport
  • How USAG treated Mattie Larson at 2010 worlds
  • What happened at 2015 worlds, and the need to impress Martha
  • Extreme weight pressure and the lack of dietary and medical education in US gymnastics
  • The monetary exploitation of US Olympic gymnasts, featuring crazy Steve Penny sponsorship stories
  • What she thinks of Rhonda Faehn’s role and responsibility
  • Solutions – what needs to happen to make US gymnastics safe and healthy before we can move forward

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TRANSCRIPT

319 Aly and Lynn Raisman.mp3

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This is episode 319 for August 20 2018. And welcome to GymCastic the number one gymnastics podcast in the galaxy. I’m just Jessica O’Beirne and Spencer is working behind the scenes this week. Thanks so much to Aly and her mom Lynn Raisman for taking the time to chat with us.

And thanks to all the Club Gym Nerd members who made this episode possible by supporting us let’s get started with some background on what happened last week.

This interview was recorded on August 19, 2018. The morning before Championship finals in Boston the best thing that came out of championship’s weekend for me was a chat with a coach who was willing to ask me all of their deepest not politically correct questions on my point of view which is so far over on the side of the survivors. We had a conversation. The coach was able to tell me their view and I was able to give my reasoning for coming to the conclusions that I have that the administration of USA Gymnastics is the giant dumpster fire. It was a great conversation. I felt like we both gained empathy for the other’s position because we had a conversation and we listened to each other. Aly Raisman can go into any grocery store, gym, be stopped on the street anywhere and a stranger will thank her for standing up against sexual abuse and that person, that stranger might even share their story with her. This happens to her all the time. But she feels like in the gymnastics community especially the elite gymnastics community where she spent her entire life she feels unwelcome or wrong for speaking up and she’s not wrong about that feeling. She’s not imagining that. People do feel that way. They don’t all understand. So why is that. Aly requested this interview because she’s asking for that same conversation. I got to have with that coach. She’s asking for that conversation with you. She and her mom Lynn wanted two things, to reach out to the gymnastics community who don’t understand why she’s speaking up about changing the culture of gymnastics. And she also wanted to thank you guys, our listeners the amazing fans who have been so incredibly supportive of her.

So we started the interview in her backyard with the vegetable garden you guys heard all about. Worthy of the hype. They also have two adorable dogs so you might hear them now and then and a little bit of wind in the beginning but that’s because it was a beautiful place to chat and really relaxing. So we started there. We’re going to talk about some of the criticisms when we first start that went back and forth between Aly and USA Gymnastics about championships. Aly said that this could have been an opportunity to include survivors like her to invite her. And it could have been an opportunity for USA Gymnastics to show that the survivors mattered when the American Cup was in Worcester, Massachusetts after the 2012 Olympics they invited Aly and hosted her overnight. Gabby came too. Aly and her mom weren’t sure if Gabby was hosted by USA Gymnastics but like, we all know about Gabby’s amazing momager, so like I’m sure she was. Anyway Gabby and Aly were interviewed by NBC at that American Cup in Massachusetts and Worcester right near Boston where Aly lives and that is in our show notes so you guys can check it out. Since this recording Aly and Lynn met briefly with Kerry Perry president of USA Gymnastics and Tom Forster who is the new Marta. They met at the arena during championships. I want to read a statement from Aly about that meeting.

“I had a great time at the meet and enjoyed watching the gymnast compete. I left feeling very upset because Kerry has no idea what’s going on. And I have no confidence in her. I’m very upset that she’s in charge. I told Tom to give my number to all the national team members.” So that’s Aly’s statement.

Aly was pretty worried about how this interview would be interpreted. And so there’s a little bit of background that I want to go into before we start. So Aly talks about Mattie Larson who’s one of her favorite gymnast and Mattie actually almost moved to Massachusetts to train with Aly at her gym Brestyan’s unfortunately the move never happened out of respect. A lot of coaches like Mihai ask permission from the home coach. And unfortunately in this case the home coach was Artur Akopyan who is was also McKayla Maroney’s coach. Arthur would not give permission for Mattie to go to Brestyan’s so she never went. For more information on what kind of person Artur Akopyan is you can listen to or watch our interview with McKayla Maroney. Spoiler alert I would NEVER send anyone to AOGC. That is their gym in Los Angeles and that’s just my personal opinion that it’s not a good gym. Some of the things Aly talks about are subjects mentioned in her book and we cannot recommend that book enough. Spencer and I did a review of it in one of our shows which we’ll link to the show notes and especially for the science that’s in the book and the nutritional science and how there’s so much proof that USA gymnastics was living in the 1960s with their non knowledge of this stuff. It’s such an important book. I did not do a great job of volume on Lynn’s side so if you can’t quite hear her sometimes I will break in and summarize what she had to say. So here’s Aly and her mom, Lynn.

How do you feel about going to a championship tonight?

I’m really excited to go to watch the competition I actually got to see Simone last night so that was really nice to see her. I think we we thought. I don’t think we’ve seen each other in like over a year which is really crazy. So I’m excited. I mean I obviously love gymnastics but I think I just feel a little bit nervous and uncomfortable because I don’t feel welcomed by the people at USA Gymnastics but then really trying to just focus on the positives about just being there. And I watched Classics on TV and I was really impressed because we’re still so far out from the Olympics.

But I just was really amazed at how confident everyone looked and how consistent they looked and they looked really really prepared to me because when I look back like 2010, for me the Classics. I remember I had a disastrous vault and I wiped out and it was it was really just not a good competition for me and I remember you know even sometimes the year before the Olympics I didn’t have a good meet which, when I look back now you know, you can’t always be in your best shape all the time. But I was very very impressed by them. They just looked really good.

What do you want to tell the coaches who don’t understand. When they talk about gymnasts just now coming forward. They don’t understand why now. They say it’s an attack on USAG. What do you want those coaches to understand?

I would say, I mean you look at Madison and Kyla and you know they just came forward a few days ago and I think that’s something that everyone should realize that everyone copes differently and everyone deals with this differently.

You know some people might feel comfortable coming forward tomorrow. Some people might feel comfortable coming forward in 10 years and some might never feel comfortable speaking up. And I think we all have to respect what what feels good for each person. But I think that I was really proud of them for coming forward because I know that it’s not easy. I don’t think that people understand, you know that you can’t know someone else’s experience. And you know I would like people to be have more empathy for other people, you know even though I can relate to Madison and Kyla. We had different experiences but we all stand together. You know what I mean. I think it is. I don’t think that anyone has the right to judge somebody else for how they come forward or when they do or what they say because everyone else’s experiences are different.

You know I know that for example when I spoke out about about the Karolyi Ranch in just the conditions you know what I want people to understand is you could be on the most beautiful island in the whole entire world the most you know magical place. But if you’re being abused your experience there isn’t good and you’re not able to think it’s the most beautiful place. So yes maybe some of the coaches you know because, I did see online there were coaches that were victim shaming me calling me spoiled and bratty. But yes maybe they had a good experience at The Ranch and that’s great for them I hope everyone you know I want everyone to have a good experience but that’s not what happened.

You know you have to respect that. Your experience might be different than someone else’s. Same with you know, people that you know just because somebody says you know that this person is a wonderful person it doesn’t mean somebody else has that same experience. And I think that is what I would really like. I think the word education in this in this part is really important of just getting it right to understand your experiences might be different than someone else says. You know maybe my experience at The Ranch. There were times where I absolutely hated it there because we were being abused. But maybe the coaches had a different experience but it still doesn’t give you the right to be unkind and call someone spoiled or victim shame because that is kind of creating this culture where more and more people are afraid to speak up.

One of the criticisms is that you’re doing this for money and publicity.

You waited to come forward to your book came out. Why did you wait and why did you choose that medium?

When I’ve been doing media the last year I have been misquoted so many times I mean it’s just so much where it’s even sometimes it will be like factual things are incorrect. And so it’s really frustrating.

You know obviously very grateful for the media for covering this story because you know people wouldn’t know about it and it wouldn’t put pressure on other people to do the right thing and to get more people to understand that abuse is never OK period. But I would say the reason why I decided to come forward with my book was because I worked on the chapter for literally months and months and months when you do an interview you might sit down with someone for 30 minutes and you have no control over what they’re going to write. You have absolutely no control over what the media writes at all. And a lot of times you’re misquoted and it can be very frustrating and it’s a very personal thing to come forward and share theirs. To share your story it’s very scary.

I worked on my book for a very long time.

We first met with the publishing company in November of 2016 and then we came out with it in 2017. So from that moment of the meeting you’re thinking of ideas and you’re starting to jot stuff down.

So it’s a very very long process and it is something where with that survivor chapter we really thought a lot about how I wanted to you know share my story because it is something that’s so personal but I also wanted to have that balance where you’re sharing but you’re also I didn’t want it to be triggering for people and I hope that it’s not. But I also want it to be something where a 5 year old could listen to it if one of their parents was reading it to them or someone that was close to them I really wanted to get that message out to people.

And you know the book was a way that I could feel comfortable and have that control over what I wanted to say and I’m very glad that I did it that way.

And you know I can share with you the frustrations I have had it’s really not a good feeling when you do an interview and you share a lot of information that’s very personal to you and you’re misquoted.

You know I can give you an example there was one article that came out and it was it was actually my teammate Jordyn was misquoted and I remember when I read it I knew she didn’t say that and it was something along the lines of you know Jordyn had said you know if it was me and Aly knew that we were being abused we wouldn’t have spoken out because making the Olympics was more important to us.

And that is like I remember I said something to Jordyn because I said I know you did not say this. I know and she was like, “No I didn’t say that” I’m like I know you didn’t.

But it was just you know we had a conversation about this. I mean that is just not ok it’s not true. I spoke up before the 2016 Olympics so it’s not true. And I just couldn’t believe that and it is it’s really really frustrating and it’s also really hurtful because people are just reading that article and they don’t really know. So writing a book is the way that you have control and you can share what you want to share. And it is a very empowering feeling to know that this is you know I have full control over what was in the book. Any time it’s the same thing with even using social media sometimes instead of doing an interview there’s something that I want to say a statement that I want to make I do it on either instagram or twitter because that can’t be misquoted and that’s my words and that’s what I want to say. And so you know but I think it’s also going to everyone in my opinion you know I think everyone should be able to if they want to come forward they can if they don’t want to that’s totally up to them.

But I think everyone should be able to share however they want to be able to share it.

There was a recent article in The Boston Globe where Tom Forster who is the new high performance director essentially the new Marta he was quoted as saying that he wants gymnast to feel they can voice complaints without fear of retaliation quote, “Some of the fear, I don’t know if it was real but it was certainly perceived. And we want to change that.” What do you make of his comments?

You know I don’t think I’ve ever met him before and I say I don’t think because I mean there could have been a really quick you know I could have met him really quickly or might have been a very long time ago. But I don’t recall ever meeting him. And you know the thing is I don’t recall ever seeing him at a training camp either so you can’t comment on. You don’t know there’s going to be any brutality. You don’t think there was any retaliation if you weren’t there. So he wasn’t a part of that. When I was training I mean I was on the national team for a very very long time. So I do think it does bother me when people when you see this a lot with the coaches and the people in the gymnastics world where they comment and say Well I disagree with what this person said because you don’t know you know your experience could be different than someone else’s experience and of course you know I do agree with. There shouldn’t be any any kind of you know retaliation and everyone should feel comfortable speaking up. I hope that he stands by his words because he has to say that to look good. You know I think that not I think I know that actions speak louder than words it’s very easy to say those words.

So I hope that he really means it. He’s just starting off and.

So I’m going to you know be really hopeful that he’s going to do a good job. I would love to have the opportunity to meet him at the competition tonight.

Since this recording Aly and Lynn have met briefly with Kerry Perry and Tom Forster coming up here Aly mentions two people and I want to tell you who they are. Toby Stark was the director of Safe Sport at U.S.A. Gymnastics for a few short months. Aly is also going to mention Ron Galimore who is the current COO of USAG. In May the Indianapolis Star the paper who originally exposed the Nassar case reported that a USAG lawyer and Ron Galimore helped Larry Nassar provide a cover story rather than tell the truth about why Nassar was absent from USA Gymnastics events which was of course because he was under investigation for sexual abuse. According to documents obtained by The Indy Star Galimore passed on the message Nassar wanted USAG to that message that he was ill or absent for personal reasons.

But I can tell you that like last year I was at nationals as well we were inducted in the Hall of Fame and USA Gymnastics at the time already knew that I had been abused. I just hadn’t come forward yet. We were at the Hall of Fame induction and you know nobody like I felt so ignored by USA Gymnastics and some of my teammates were ignored as well. There was very few people from USA Gymnastics that came over to say hi to us and I felt very uncomfortable and very unwelcomed. Ron Galimore made me feel very unwelcome very uncomfortable. He’s still there. And you know I actually had said something to Toby Stark about how you know and she’s not there anymore but I had already said I said something to her about how upset I was and I said Ron Galimore just totally ignored me and I remember he came over to my mom and I just did this really lame apology but it was just so forced because someone from USA just said that he had to but it was just you know it just is. It felt so uncomfortable in that room and it was such a different vibe than in 2012 when we were honored there it was so much fun, we had such a great time and in that room in 2016 I just felt so uncomfortable and so unwelcomed and I remember you know I was I had that last line in there and I forget exactly what I said it was something about.

Here are Aly’s final words in that 2017 Hall of Fame speech.

But it’s also important to take a moment to recognize that winning also isn’t everything. We must remember that protecting athletes comes first. And doing right by athletes is always the priority. I love our sport so much and I want the best for it.

Yeah and I remember I was literally like shaking and I felt sick I was so nervous to see that last statement even though it’s so true I just that was the first time I had really said something and I was so scared because I was in the room with all the people from USA Gymnastics but you shouldn’t be so afraid to say that winning isn’t everything. And I remember at that moment because I was so nervous to speak up about USA Gymnastics and at that point I was not ready to share my personal story yet but I was so disgusted with them but I was terrified to speak up. It was so hard for me and I remember after the Hall of Fame ceremony I was I was afraid that USA Gymnastics wasn’t going to like me anymore and I said remember I said to my mom I was like Well they clearly don’t like me I don’t know what I did to them. But I was ignored so I’m going to do this interview anyways. And I remember for hours before the interview came out I just had a headache. I felt so sick and I don’t think anyone understands how much it takes a toll on me even still sometimes after I do an interview I’m constantly worrying you know even after this interview I’m going to be like I hope I said the right things.

I hope that no one’s picking apart what I said. I hope people think I’m saying the right things because I really care so much. And it is so hard where you know people are you know want to pick apart every little thing. But it is which I understand because this is such a sensitive topic and it is so personal to so many people but it is it’s very very hard and very scary but you know so that being said after I spoke up the next day at the competition I was supposed to do an interview with NBC and they canceled that interview I wasn’t I don’t know who cancel that I don’t know if was USA gymnastics or NBC. But I was not welcome to the interview on the floor and I also like every year when I’m at Nationals when I’m not competing. I was able to kind of do stuff on the floor throw t-shirts in the audience, interact with the gymnasts, was not invited to do that also. And I have and I hope I get the opportunity to do that tonight. Especially it being in Boston but I haven’t heard anything about that so there really is when you do speak up. You don’t get to do the same things that you used to do.

I just have to say, the girls were at one table and the parents were at the next able. Nobody from like the board or higher ups came over to say hello to any of the four girls that were there, because Gabby [Douglas] didn’t come, or the parents. And that was before anyone said anything was really well and I remember some of the girls didn’t even know like about like who still kind of really weren’t aware of it were like, what’s going on? Why is no one saying hi to us?

Yeah it was very sad it was very weird. 2012 was so fun. We know something very different vibe. Yeah. Happy.

It was just it’s just I mean they really kind of like ice you out.

Yeah it’s very. it’s very bizarre yeah.

Ron Galimore has been very prominently on the floor at the last two meets including championships. What do you think that says to the survivors who are competing this weekend?

I mean I just think it’s such intimidation and it’s such a power struggle. I mean last year again at national you know there was a lions. Lions for accountability something like that. And I remember. You know someone had told me that Ron Galimore and his wife were like making fun of it and saying it was really tacky and it just. And even just someone that was working at USA Gymnastics when I when I was walking with them to do a meet and greet made fun of it. And I remember you know I was just horrified and my mom you know said something and was like that is so offensive and I’m so offended by you saying that. And I just don’t think that they get it. But it’s this culture of in USA Gymnastics is just people are not nice to each other and they make fun of people. I don’t understand how you can make fun of people wearing pins that say alliance for accountability. I just I don’t find anything funny about that and I just. This is someone that’s supposed to be a leader. I don’t know. I just I also you know I know there was you know some concern over you know if you know some people are concerned about all the board members leaving but just so everyone knows we don’t have any interaction with the board members. I don’t know the board members I mean maybe some of them I might have met in passing or maybe because some of them are former gymnasts or former coaches but we have no connection or anything to the board members so it doesn’t affect the gymnast’s at all the fact that they’re gone.

If anything it’s obviously wonderful because you know just it’s just like it’s too little too late. You know if you have information that you want to share that’s going to help us figure out this investigation because there still hasn’t been one that’s been done that’s great but I don’t need an apology from you just because you waited so long and now you’re caught if you apologize after it just because you’ve been caught that has that’s not character.

Do you think that everyone at USAG knew about Nassar and did not independently go to law enforcement should be dismissed from USA Gymnastics?

Yes. I don’t understand how you can know about it and not do anything. I just don’t understand that. There’s still so much that we don’t even know. But I do have to say I think this is a lot worse than we think it is. I think it’s a lot worse than I even think it is. We still you know the FBI is doing an internal investigation. We still don’t even know about that. But it’s it’s really scary to think that I mean the FBI waited like over a year to interview me and when I I remember I had asked you know the person who interviewed me and I said Why did you wait so long. You know this is after the Olympics he goes oh I wanted to wait until you were done competing. We wanted to wait to do this after so I mean it’s just that’s I don’t even have I don’t even have words I mean there’s just something that’s so not right. It’s just there’s so many pieces that we still don’t even know. But I just find it really scary.

I mean Kerry Perry when she first came in she should have launched a full on investigation. And she I don’t really understand. I think you know when she came in obviously we’re all very well aware she was not here for this disaster so I mean I would have loved the opportunity to sit down and meet with her and talk with her and help her there so many people that would do anything to meet with her. We want to help. But there is no new USA Gymnastics if you are not willing to hear the survivors out. You know it’s the same thing with all the people that are saying you know the USOC that they care that they support putting out these new statements is not you know actually it’s not a new it’s the same statements they always do for years and years.

I mean I was looking back you know even in 2004 USA Gymnastics was releasing basically the same thing saying we support athlete safety blah blah blah it’s the same thing they’ve been saying that for years. So it’s actions speak louder than words. So really do the right thing. And you know for all the people that are wondering it does not you know it’s not about because when I do interviews or like well they can’t meet with you there’s a lawsuit and I’m like you can meet and share you know just that you’re sorry that you want to know what we can do to help that’s not going to affect the lawsuit. You know there’s being you know empathetic and actually caring enough to meet with us and hear the survivors out. I mean look at Kyla and Madison they did an interview and USA Gymnastics and the same thing. We support them blah blah blah. And they were asked you know do you agree with that and Madison and Kyla said haven’t heard anything from them how can you say you support them when they can’t even reach out. It’s just it’s really it’s shocking to me. I don’t understand they’re making this so much harder for everyone. They’re making it so much more unfair. It’s it’s horrible what happened but we want to all make sure this never happens again and if we don’t do anything history is likely to repeat itself. So we really we have to figure it out. And it’s so sad. It’s like I feel like right now I can make more change outside of the sport than actually working with them. I would love to work with them.

But how am I supposed to work with Ron Galimore if he was there for all of it and he is making fun of people for wearing pins saying alliance for accountability.

Can I add something about You were saying you know should the people who knew about it be gone. My thing is that and I didn’t realize this until like way after Aly reported her abuse to Rhonda and Steve Penny. In the I don’t know if it’s in the handbook. I don’t know where it is but it says any report of abuse must be in writing to Steve Penny in the Indy office or it doesn’t count. So this was like a year after it and I was like oh my God all the phone calls and e-mails they don’t count. So to me anybody like a part of creating that policy and who followed it they should be gone If you go back the policy was set up so it was incredibly difficult to file a complaint.

There is also another policy that said that you know I don’t have that exactly word for word but it was something along lines of if you’re at a competition a USAG sanctioned event. And you see something you see any kind of verbal emotional physical sexual abuse just give them a warning. Just give them a warning and then if the second one was you might it was like along the lines of like they might remove you from the meet if that you know they feel like it.

And I remember just reading it with my mom and we were just like how is this an organization that cares about athlete safety. You want to tell me if you see somebody sexually abusing a child you’re just going to say I’m just going to give you a warning a verbal warning and then a second time you might get kicked out of the meet. Maybe not but then there was nothing about reporting it. There was nothing about anything. It’s just there is just when you look at their policies it’s it’s and also Larry Nassar created a lot of the policies. And I just there’s so many levels to this.

Some of the policies that Aly and Lynn mentioned here have changed. We’ve linked to the policies the old and the new. So you can read them for yourself and make your own judgments.

This organization does not care about athlete safety. There needs to be and also even just having new policies is not enough. You know everyone needs to be educated on it. It’s not just something where you take a course one time I mean I think Safe Sport is just such is not good because Safe Sport should be completely separate like USADA. When I met with Toby Stark at Nationals last year she was wearing USA Gymnastics shirt. And I remember I told her right then and there I’m like How am I supposed to feel comfortable meeting with you. You’re wearing a USA Gymnastics shirt so everything I tell you you’re going to go back and tell them it’s not separate. And you know I saw these swimmers came forward and they said that the Safe Sport rep for swimming actually told them not to go through with it. And they stood up for the coach that was abusing them. And it’s like how does the USOC look at that and think that Safe Sport is good. And they keep asking for more donations and.

And this is another problem with that the USOC makes so much money off of you guys. Why don’t we just make a law like licensing your image licensing the sports that you do licensing your appearances on television. Why don’t we just make a law under the Ted Stevens Act or the Safe Sport Act that 50 percent or 80 percent or whatever of all licensing of athletes’ images or their competitions has to go directly to athletes or has to go to Safe Sport and it has and in addition to the money going to Safe Sport and being separate then also no one who works at Safe Sport can ever have been an employee at the USOC that’s another conflict of interest they have right now.

Also So Fran Sepler who was the one that was a human resource expert who interviewed me at my house and she like so the way she handled it was just so bad. But then she got rewarded by being on the board of Safe Sport. So anyone Steve Penny recommended or anyone who’s now gone because they didn’t handle this correctly anyone that they recommended to be on any kind of board or anything they need to be gone too like it’s just his level it just the deeper you know layers of everything there’s so much that needs to be done. But it’s like if you are comfortable with allowing sexual abuse to happen I don’t understand how I just don’t get it. But it just is unacceptable and it should not be tolerated. I just it’s also with USA Gymnastics the gym hopping. You see you know a coach is reported you know maybe to the gym owner about abusing a child and then maybe they let them go and then they gym hop to another gym. That should not be happening. You know just like USA Gymnastics needs to have a system and it should be in every single sport. Everywhere you know even in schools and everything but also what concerns me if you’re a gymnastics coach and you are abusing a child and let’s say you’re even on the USA Gymnastics ban list what’s going to stop them from going to coach soccer or going to be in swimming. And that really is something that concerns me and keeps me up at night where there just needs to be so many better laws and systems in place that we need to do a better job at protecting children and also creating environments where children feel more comfortable and also are educated because you know we thought it was a medical treatment. We just honestly did not realize it was wrong and you know when I looked when I took even just taking the Darkness to Light course where I realized I was like there were so many red flags that I didn’t see but also the adults around me didn’t see because you know even just the fact of like Larry made me very uncomfortable and I really didn’t like him but I felt guilty for thinking that way of him because you’re taught to trust doctors and that they always are right and that he’s a man. He’s an authority over me and you’re taught to respect the adults. And you know I think it’s important obviously to teach children to respect your elders. But I also think that it needs to be taught that there are some elders that you’re supposed to, you know that are not doing the right thing. And you know I don’t know. I think it’s something that we really have to take a look at how we’re teaching people. I think it needs to be taught in schools and everything like there are some adults that are not going to do the right thing and you know they might even if they’re nice to you you know like it’s just there’s so many things that I think about you know I was at a photo shoot a video shoot a couple days ago and I was with these three younger girls and they the person that was behind the camera was asking me to hug one of the girls and to give the other ones high fives and I said I’m not going to do that. And I think they kind of looked at me I just don’t think they’re used to people saying you know like I’m not doing it. And they were like why can’t you just hug her and I just said I think that’s really weird and I don’t like this. This I don’t want to make this little girl hug me and I don’t think you know if she wants. If they all want to hug me they can. But I also think it’s like you’re telling her to hug me so I don’t know if she feels uncomfortable. She’s very young so let’s just have them give me a high five. And I think they were really surprised by that and they were like well let’s just try it. And I said No I’m not just going to try it because I want to make sure I’m comfortable with what’s being played. And that’s something that’s really important. Where like we shouldn’t teach young kids that if an adult wants a hug they have to do it. You know kids should be comfortable saying I don’t want to give you a hug I’ll give you a fist bump or I’ll give you a high five. But I think it’s also something where the adults were kind of like I don’t understand why you’re overthinking this and I’m like well you know because I just I don’t want. Yeah I just say you have a boundary. Yeah. And I also think it’s like if I’m giving this one girl a hug and the other two a high five what message is this sending to the other two kids and I remember with Larry like he would favor some girls or he would pick and choose like when he would give me food. And when he wouldn’t or when he would bring me coffee or this and I remember I would feel sometimes like he didn’t like me and I would. And then there were other times I felt like he really liked me. I just I would never. I don’t want any of those girls to feel those little girls to feel like I like one of them more than the other and there’s this whole thing that we have to all be conscious about including myself you know and I’m still learning this I’m only 24 years old. I’m not an expert in this and I’m doing the best that I can to educate myself more but I’m just speaking from experience but just trying to find every little thing of like slowly changing things.

So speaking of culture you haven’t talked a lot about Marta and I- all right I’m just gonna tell you what I think. And then just let me know what you think. So I feel like Marta in a lot of ways was a genius in the way that she coached in the way that she brought people together in a certain way to collaborate. I also think she was a huge bitch and was really mean to people but she also helped a lot of people achieve their dreams. And I just want to know you know a lot of people wonder what you think of her in light of everything that’s happened.

You know I’ve thought a lot about obviously all of this and it is it is so hard to process everything and I just think I don’t even know if people realize how hard this is for me. You know it is something that you know when I’m not doing interviews or whatever I’m dealing with this I’m at home I’m doing therapy. I’ve just started doing EMDR which I don’t have.

Oh my God it’s amazing.

Have you me done it? Oh really that’s what everyone says it helps them so much. I don’t have the exact definition of it or. For those who they don’t know what it is but I just started doing that I’ve done it like five times so I’m at the very beginning of it and you know I find that when I’m doing it I like remember things that I haven’t thought about in a really long time so that can be difficult but it’s part of the healing process. But I would say I mean here’s the thing there. You know for because you know I understand you know when you speak out and I have a lot of followers on social media and not everyone’s going to understand or not everyone’s going to care about what you’re speaking out about about sexual abuse and there’s going to be people that victim shame you. But there is a reason why there are so many people speaking up. And I just want to reiterate that because I don’t know if everyone really understands. You know if it wasn’t so bad, Not everyone would be speaking up and you see people speaking about all different levels. You know there’s people speaking up at the collegiate level there’s Olympians speaking out there as national team members speaking out. There’s elite speaking up there is club level gymnast speaking up it’s all the levels are speaking up and there’s a reason for that. And so it does it really makes me sad when I see people comment you know even if it’s about myself or someone else because even if someone shaming someone else there’s still still feels like you’re being shamed because we’re all in this together even if it’s not a gymnast if it’s somebody else coming forward in another sport or in Hollywood. Like anyone who’s speaking up and pushing for change it’s helping all of us. And you know it does feel like we’re all it’s like this incredible movement that we’re all a team even if you don’t know anyone. If you don’t know the other people that are speaking up but it’s just it is so you know upsetting because there is a reason why we are all speaking up is because there could have been a better way. And you know obviously I think Marta was very. She created this incredible success that was just like insane and you know my gymnastics teams I mean we were so incredibly successful and we were so consistent. I do have to say when I would compete I was so terrified of not doing well. You know it was kind of this fear of you knew that if you didn’t compete well you would probably not be back again. You know I think Mattie Larson’s story is really a important one for people to listen to. She did. I mean it honestly really it breaks my heart. I mean we got second place by two tenths. I mean that could have been me. You know like I I wish I could you know take that for Mattie because it’s so unfair that people were so mean to her. I remember I had a big wobble on beam and that two tents could have been me it could have been any of us. And I just remember that USA Gymnastics was so mean to her. I mean like they totally ignored her. And you know I even talked to Mattie about it because in 2010 I was I was actually rooming by myself. So that was really a time when Larry had a lot of access to me. And so I remember I’ve talked to Mattie about it a couple of times and I’m like you know I I was also younger than her I felt like I was the youngest one on the team and I was like I’m really sorry if like I could have been you know more there for you if we could have hung out more and all this stuff. And Mattie’s is just so great about it. And we’re really you know we when we see each other we just saw each other at the ESPY’s and we’re you know we’re just very supportive of each other but it just makes me sad but it also goes to show that we were all struggling and dealing with something and we didn’t even really know that each other was dealing with it. And it just is it just kind of goes to show and kind of is something for me if I feel like one of my friends isn’t being a good friend to me. I always try now to give them the benefit of the doubt because I realized how many people are suffering in the world you just don’t know what anyone is dealing with. But I mean Mattie was totally ignored by all the coaches and she didn’t compete at the elite level ever again. And because she was treated so badly. I mean she was ignored by the staff members and that is just so unacceptable and so not OK. And also little did we know what we were all what was all going on behind closed doors. But it is absolutely awful. I mean I think there’s still people from USA Gymnastics and other teammates and people that just don’t talk about it enough. But it’s like it should not. If you don’t do well at a competition you should not be afraid that you won’t be able to have another opportunity again. I remember 2015 Worlds in the practices Marta was really hard on me and I was like I remember I was wiping out so much. I was like you know flying off the bars like I was it was really really bad for me and I was really struggling a lot. And I remember I was just a few months after I’d realized what had happened with Larry. And did Marta know at the time?

Yep.

So that’s what this is what really upsets me as I was struggling so much and Marta was so hard on me and the practices and I mean I was not myself like I would do like a Shaposh on bars and I would fly off and just like wipe out. I mean it was really bad wipe outs. I look back I don’t even know how I didn’t get hurt. But it would just be these crazy things where I would be like slipping and falling everywhere and I just she never said anything to me and she was so hard on me and I remember one day in practice yeah Rhonda never said anything to me either but. And she knew about it because I told her. But you know I remember one day in practice we were doing you know with Marta we always you always had to be on every single day and that was so hard. I used to have to do two and a halves on vault every single day and it was not I mean McKayla Maroney training with her you know at training camps. She could just do it even when she was exhausted. Same thing with Simone. I was not like that I struggled with that a lot it took me a really long time and finally in Rio it was like the best I had ever done it for myself at least it was. I was very happy because it was such a hard thing for me to be able to do it every single day. But it was like Marta’s way or you’re out. So I remember it was just every day I would just be at practice and I would have so much anxiety for practice because I was like today I feel a little bit more tired or my foot hurts or my quads are really tired but there was or I feel really jetlagged and I’m off. But you had to do your vault. And if you couldn’t you would feel like it was like the worst thing in the world. And I remember we were doing competition bar routine and you know every day we would do two warm up times to warm up some bars. One time was the warm up routine the second was the mini competition routine or not many but the actual competition routine. But I say mini because it’s in practice. And I remember the second time when I was first one up on bars so you know I struggle with bars a lot. But Marta put a lot of pressure. You’re setting up the team. So you need to hit your bar routine. I remember in practice in practice I repeat I fell on my bar routine and she and after me I literally think it might. Either it was Simone or Gabby were the only ones that didn’t mess up their bar routine or it might have been Madison and I don’t really remember exactly but like everyone fell on their bar routine except for one person and I don’t remember who the girl was that didn’t fall. And she blamed me for it because she said that I went up and I set the team up on the wrong foot. And I like startled everyone and I should be more mature and because I’m the captain I should know better and I’m like I didn’t mess up on purpose. But this is like she would like kind of like yell at like almost like your character. I remember I was like. I was literally just like I couldn’t believe that she said that because I was like she was like you should be like you know a better role model than this and I’m like I’m not doing on purpose. I just messed up you know and and you know when you mess up in practice that’s how you learn to get better. You know that’s how you learn so that you hopefully don’t do it in the competition. But I just remember I was having such a hard time in practice and I just was messing up. I was like shaking I wasn’t myself and I remember when I competed on beam AT 2015 Worlds like my legs were literally shaking before my dismount. That never happened to me but then Marta surprised me and was so kind to me after the competition. And so. There were times she was really hard on me. But then there was also times where she was so kind to me and I did feel like she really wanted me to do well and I felt like I she cared a lot about me. But I think that you know there is a different way where like I was definitely afraid of her. There was such this you know you just wanted to impress her so much that you really didn’t feel comfortable speaking up to her like I was even at 22 years old. I was terrified if she was like Why was your floor routine like that today. I was terrified just to be like I’m so tired. You know and I remember Simone. You know what. One time said you know we are really tired and we need to pack and she just try to think of any excuse like ask for the day off. And this is I think right before we left I think for the Olympics or it was either a World and she was like we’re just really tired. And we also need to pack and that did not go over well with Marta because she was upset. But it wasn’t really that we needed a lot of time to pack. We just were trying to think of something that could help us get the full day off and she was not. Having that conversation and it was like if we had the half day off she considered a full day off. And I remember if we had the morning off and at night we went to practice and you messed up in practice it was because you know yeah we had the morning off like so it was almost like sometimes we were like Is it even worth asking for a half day off because then we’re going to have even more pressure.

But she like actually we were like joke the full day off even though was because she would say you have the whole day off. But it was like this pressure of you know should we even ask for a half day off because then if the next day we don’t have a good workout. We’re going to get in even more trouble so it was like at home you know when I would train you’d have Sundays off but when you would go to The Ranch or when you would go to different assignments you don’t have any days off. Unless they gave you a half day or something here and there. But it was also just you know I we had we had a full day off which was very rare. You would literally just Simone jokes like she’s like I’m going to go rot in my room. Like who would joke about that. We’re going to go rot in our rooms because we weren’t allowed to leave. So then you would like overthink everything and be so it was just like I think one time before the Olympics in 2012 we got to go to the movies which was really a big thing. But we just would just like sit there and there was nothing to do and it was like you know you had to get your treatment and you’d have to see Larry so it was just never like yeah relaxing and I started meditating now and I just like look back and it just makes me sad. I’m like wow I feel like my whole life I’ve just been so stressed out and so anxious and I don’t think I really realized that until I started meditating because I just it’s very it’s really like crazy to think about but I was just so nervous for practice everyday because you just wanted to do well. And it is so competitive. I mean it’s just so much pressure. And. I remember when we went to the training camp for the 2016 Olympics I remember that and you know they had told us that Gabby and Simone have their all around spots locked in for Rio and me and Laurie would be fighting for the spot. And I remember like I said to Laurie I was like I just don’t want this to be something where like obviously we both want the spot. And I understand we both want it and it feels like it’s almost life or death. But I was like I just don’t like I just still want to have an environment where we’re trying to enjoy it and also trying not to be like competitive with each other because it is it came down to me and Laurie on bars and it was just every day it’s like this awful feeling of every day. It’s competitive and like you know in Marta’s head she’s thinking. OK. Aly fell on bars today. But then Laurie fell yesterday. So like you’re even like she tallies it in her head and so it’s so much pressure and it’s really this like awful thing of just being like let’s just realize that it’s easier said than done but it’s just gymnastics and if we’re not. Like you could win every event but if you don’t love it it’s not you don’t feel that pride of winning. So I just it just is so it was like I don’t think people realize how stressful every day of practice was because you really wanted to prove yourself. And if I fell on bars a lot then I was not going to be in the bar lineup. But it was like I just put so much pressure but then also that being said that’s we put so much pressure on ourselves in the training gym which is not healthy but that’s why we do so well in the competition. So there needs to be a better balance. I don’t think you should feel anxiety and have a stomachache going into practice every day. I do think the idea of doing competition routines to practice is good at mimicking that pressure but you shouldn’t feel like I just fall on a bar routine. She’s probably going to take me out of the all around lineup and all that stuff. So there definitely needs to be a better balance and a better way. But you know I mean even just like I just felt like it was so dangerous for me to do two and a halves on vault every every day like I looked back and I don’t know how I didn’t get really badly injured because there was so many times where I was so afraid to do it and I would go and do it and I would kind of change my mind in the middle because I would be like I’m so tired I forget what I’m doing. And I would wipe out and it would feel like the end of the world like you would just feel so bad about yourself. So I also think that with gymnastics there needs to be something that’s like giving you more self-worth like self-love and teaching. You know people from a young age that you know you are also more than just your score because it’s really hard. There’s only five girls that are going to make the Olympic team. Now it’s four. So you have so many girls on the national team a bunch of girls in the country that do elite. But it’s not that many that we can’t figure out a way to help each person. Same with you know the level tens in the country and level nines that are going for college scholarships. If you don’t get the number one school that you wanted that’s OK. You know I just think there’s so much pressure for all of these people to be the absolute best. And you feel like if you’re not then you feel bad about yourself and it shouldn’t be that way.

This reminds me of when you were in Glasgow and you were on the world team and you didn’t do really well in prelims especially on beam and you did your interview with USA Gymnastics and it was with Scott Bregman who was there at the time and you said are you I felt terrible about yourself and you said something about I hope Marta still wants me. And Scott Bregman said something to you you know off camera which was don’t talk about yourself like that you’re an Olympic champion. And it reminded me how all the NCAA programs or the good NCAA programs have sports psychologists and team building and I talk about you know mental health and preparedness and taking care of that part of yourself and how USAG just doesn’t.

We don’t have anything we didn’t have a sports psychologist we didn’t have a sports dietitian. I actually used. So. I lucked out that my chiropractor actually was the one for the Patriots and then he saw how much I was struggling and he hooked me up with them on the side. You know when they weren’t working with the Patriots the sports dietitian and their sports physical therapist I mean like sometimes like the sports physical therapist would like seen me at like 5:00 a.m. or like 11:00 p.m. because he was working with the Patriots all day like they I would not have made the Olympic team if I didn’t have them helping me just because I was I was older but I was also I knew a lot about what was happening I was dealing with my abuse. I was really struggling with an appetite because I was training so much I don’t think it was healthy for me to be as thin as I was. I don’t know if you can see it on TV. But like I had like such a low body fat that my sports dietitian was just like this is so unhealthy. Like he’s he was just like I don’t understand this at all. But there was so much pressure to keep your weight down. And I remember when I first started seeing him like he was like you need to eat carbs and I was like well I don’t do that because it makes you gain weight. And he was like oh my gosh he’s like No it doesn’t like he was like you need to stop reading all of those women’s magazines reading all those articles online you need to stop listening to people that don’t know anything about you know like dieting and nutrition. And so I ate a ton of carbs and he was right I didn’t like put on any weight. If anything I felt better. He would also give me these like drinks that had almost carbs in them. It was like a powder drink that would help you just feel more energy throughout the day because I was just absolutely exhausted I wasn’t recovering after Saturday practice I finish at like 12:30 have that rest of the day off Sunday off, Monday I would still be just exhausted. And so he would really help me out a lot. And you know it’s also really hard because you know with with all of this stuff you know you’re trying to take you know maybe these like trying to figure all these like powders for smoothies and all this stuff but then you’re also like OK just have to make sure this is OK with you USADA but that no one from USA Gymnastics is helping you with that. So look like thankfully my mom would help me with that because sometimes I was like 15 or 16 and I was trying to like you know oh this has carbs in it but I also just want to make sure it’s not made in the same place That’s made with something else bad so there’s so many things that go into it and you’re really there’s nobody helping you.

I feel like this is like the Thorne program where nobody knew this was offered and they do nutrition for you and help you out and it’s available to the national team.

See this is actually an example of that because they someone from USAG was like this is great to have and my mom checked with my doctor and they are like that. Like for me specifically personally like just with like family history like I medically it would not be good for me. But it’s like there needs to be someone on.

So Lynn makes a good point here but it was hard to hear her. So I’m going to reiterate what she said. Lynn says that USA Gymnastics was trying to offer this stuff without doing a blood panel and you can’t determine what’s missing and what someone needs without doing a blood panel.

So there just needs to be like has everyone you know different things with their family with medical you know problems with their family like it needs to just be. I remember it like thankfully my mom checked but. If I didn’t tell her I mean I was like 16 and I was like oh yeah I’ll try this. And my mom I just knew you know my mom’s like just always check with me.

That’s also scary if someone just offering something to you and you don’t know whether or not it’s on the banned list.

It is I mean I was always so paranoid. There was so many times we’re like people would be like you can take this and I wouldn’t even take it. And people would be like I promise it’s fine it’s clean it’s going to help you and I just wouldn’t take it. And I was so afraid I wouldn’t take anything even if it said. But it’s just I wish there was a better way. Because even times when we called USADA they were like yeah we can’t really help you because they don’t want it in case something happens and you get you know in trouble like they don’t want to be responsible for it. But it’s like if USADA can’t even help answer your questions then how are you supposed to know anything. So it was very very hard. But I also just I just didn’t realize you know I thought that eating carbs would be bad for me and that all this stuff and you know he helped me realize that it is really important to have and just also helping me time it with my workouts and just also like you know if I was working out for four hours I’d have a little bit of fruit or nuts or something that if I went out and started tumbling I wouldn’t feel sick but just constantly trying to fuel my body. Because when I look back I’m like I used to train for four hours not have one snack or nothing. And that is no wonder why I was so tired.

No like nutrition resources. There’s no, even like therapy resources. Like she would return from camp feeling more injured. Saying can I have the morning over so I an see my therapy people. Everyone would be like so depleated. There is just no. The equipment, the gymnastics equipment is top of the line.

And I also feel like why the men have a real Olympic training center. So they have access to all of this stuff. And you guys never did. And it’s because I feel like they didn’t want you to.

And I actually I’ve never even like I honestly for some reason ever thought about why they were there and we were there. But I also think it was like they just want to control over us. We’re so secluded. But I think here is the thing when all this stuff started coming out about Larry Nassar a lot of coaches would say to me like you know it’s it’s such a shame we lost such a good doctor and I’m like it’s just literally painful and I’m like here’s the thing for people that think he was a good doctor because some of the coaches were like he kept all you guys healthy. I was like Listen I was like he did that awful “treatment” in quotations “treatment” because it wasn’t. And a lot of times you would just say yeah my foot feels better so that he wouldn’t you wouldn’t have to see him. So I think sometimes the coaches thought he was great and he was like a savior and all this stuff but it is just-

On every World and Olympic team there’s someone hanging on by a thread getting shots like-

I know I’ve been on teams and I you know I’m not obviously saying any names I’ve been on many teams or I’ve seen people get shots like in their butt to like numb their legs and I’m just like did you check with your you know your doctor or your family make sure it’s OK.

Or get parental consent.

Yes yes. I don’t think some of them did. And that’s what’s really not ok. I don’t know it was just this mentality of it does not matter what you have to do. Do whatever you can. It does not matter. Just do what you can to get by.

This goes back to what we talk about on the show all the time which is both things can be true. At the same time like Marta could have helped create this environment but she also could have actually cared about you.

Yeah I mean also here’s the thing. Like there’s been a lot of people that spoke up against them. And I support them because I 100 percent think there’s a better way. I mean the way that the system that Marta had in place did get results and there was a lot of structure to where every day. We did the same thing. And that was consistency and why we did well. But there’s also there needs to be a better balance. You should be able to feel comfortable being like I don’t feel like I’ll give you an example. There was one time before the 2012 Olympics it was I think it was one of the first camps of the year. And I had the flu and I was throwing up in the middle of the night. And I remember like instead of just thinking I need to just take care of myself I remember I like woke my mom up in the middle of the night and I was like I’m so nervous I have to go to camp tomorrow and I remember my mom is like well you’re not going to camp tomorrow you’re throwing up and I was like now I have to go. So you know USA Gymnastics said because you have the day you fly up you have the training that night and they said you can just come up that night. So the next morning I got the next morning I took the flight you know in the afternoon I remember I like hadn’t eaten anything all day because I was throwing up I didn’t feel good. I was trying to have like nuts on the plane or something that made me feel sick the next morning I assume because I have been throwing up it will be a really light workout. And I remember everyone there was just like you look amazing you look so skinny like just try to stay like that you know like I just don’t think people understand how like not you know when I say like we were not speaking out if it didn’t need to change I really mean where it’s like everyone’s like you look. Amazing and I’m like well I haven’t seen anything and I threw up there like well just try not to eat a lot. So you can say that skinny like they want you to. So then so then also the next morning I had to do verification because we did verification on different events for each practice and I remember I do two and a half on vault and I was like I thought that I wasn’t going to have to do that. But I did and it was just like you’re so weak after you throw up. I mean you’re just like crazy like when I started it seems sports dietitian I’m so grateful that I got to see him because he really changed the way like my relationship with food. Like you need food. It’s like fueling your car with gas. And I’m really grateful that I got to see him and I still work with him because it is important to have a good relationship with food. It’s hard when people are telling you that you need to lose weight and you need to look good to not have a bad relationship with food. And so just thinking about it in a way I like I need to eat to have energy is something that has really helped me a lot because we all need to eat to have energy you can’t be and to recover too. But it’s just there’s so many things and it’s not just the sexual abuse there’s a lot of things that need to change. You know like you know a lot of people would like bring snacks in their bags and we go to World Championships and you know like what I don’t understand and I remember my mom’s friends my moms friends said that she goes I don’t understand why everyone packs snacks. She’s like I get why you need to because they don’t feed you enough. But she goes I don’t understand. Instead of you guys packing like cookies and goldfish and stuff that last you like a month because it’s hard that you can’t bring fruit for a month. You know you have to find like junk food that’s going to last you that long. She’s like I don’t understand why they don’t just give you like really good food. That’s like going to you know like give you energy that’s like it’s you know healthier for you’re going to give you more energy like she’s like I don’t understand that like instead of having goldfish you know because you don’t eat enough for lunch like why don’t they just give you more rice or more whatever you want to eat to have more energy. It’s just really silly the way that they do things. I just think about how successful we were. And there’s just such a better way that I can’t wait until the day that they actually can do it the right way and to listen and you know I think it’s no one’s perfect. So you know I’m not saying I know the perfect right way because I’m I’ve never coached before or anything. I’m just saying that I think if you can listen to all the people that have spoken out we can all come together with something you know. And you know I feel like there’s a lot of elite gymnasts majority of them I know that do not have a good relationship with gymnastics they have a lot of PTSD just from the training aspect of it not even from Larry. So I think there is a obviously not I think I know there is a better way where you should be able to have that great experience where you wanna go back to Nationals every year where you feel welcomed. I mean it’s like every year they should just put on a little at the hotel where everyone can just come and hang out. I mean even with the survivors there’s a few hundred that have come forward. You know the Garden seats so many people it’s not sold out would it have been that bad for them just to say if you all want to come you’re more than welcome.

So next we started talking about Steve Penny the former CEO of USA Gymnastics now ousted picking favorites. Picking some people to be in the USA Gymnastics box other people not to be even after they’re retired and that’s how we got on the topic of Steve Penny and the financial side of USAG

they just do that USA gymnastics Steve Penny was so bad at picking picking and choosing. And he was really really bad about that. There was like this it’s just all these little examples. There was this very weird thing. I think that I wrote about it in my book where it was like at like Olympic promo I remember I had really wanted to do the like all the magazines are there and I really wanted to do something with this magazine. And Simone and Gabby got to do it. And I remember. I was like oh OK well this isn’t in my schedule so I was like I’m just you know I’m not shy I’m going to go ask them if I can do it. And I remember someone from USA Gymnastics was assigned to me to be with me and they were like You can’t go in there and look and ask them and I was like. And I knew at this point because it was like 2016. I knew USA Gymnastics was just they lied about a lot of things. I remember me and my mom were like let’s just say we’re going the bathroom we ran to go to talk to the magazine and they were like oh my gosh we’re so happy to see we’ve been emailing USA Gymnastics for weeks. We really want to get you but they said that you’re not available. And so I remember they shot me really quickly and USA Gymnastics freaked out. And it was just this weird control thing that Steve Penny had that it was like he wanted only certain athletes to do certain things. It was very bizarre. It was really weird and he like tried to be my agent. And I remember we were like Oh no.

So exactly what did he say when you say did he say can I be your agent?

So what happened was I was he was putting an alarming

He’s so shady.

amount of pressure on Aly to sign the 2012 tour and this is before I knew he was so shady. And I’m like oh Steve we’re just gonna hold off a little bit. We’re not quite sure like confidentially she’s sorta thinking about going pro. He’s like let me fly out there right now and discuss it with you. And all this stuff is kind of was like well I didn’t really understand what was going on that he did fly out to see another athlete and he became her like faux agent. Like he told the mom you say you’re really the agent but I’ll be the agent. and I mean it was really shady like financially some stuff.

No wait let me just give an example without giving too specific. So we there was I think four of us were pro I believe from the 2012 team. Everyone but Kyla but Kyla still came to the event so we did a event with a USA Gymnastics sponsor at the time. I remember they were offering to pay the four of us and our agents together we’re going to give us all the same amount of money. But they’re like you need to bump it up to this price for them to do it because it was just also so unfair that the USA Gymnastics sponsor was taking advantage of the fact that they thought they had the rights just because of USA Gymnastics. And I remember that the sponsor came back they’re like that is what we offered. So like Steve Penny was trying to like you know he cut it in half and they cut the money in half and USAG came to us and acted like the sponsor didn’t offer what they did and they cut it in half. So I don’t know if St- what he did with that money. But I’m telling you there’s so much stuff that I hope that all these investigators are doing a lot more than just Nassar because when I say more than just Nassar there’s a lot of things that I don’t know if Steve kept it for himself. If it was USAG that kept it whatever it was. But like people don’t understand there’s a very small window for any Olympic athlete to make money it’s not what it seems like. And I mean even just winning one gold medal you’re not going to be set for life. That’s not as it seems at all. And I would say that especially at that time I mean it was just right after the Olympics I mean there’s a small window and it’s like these companies can sometimes take advantage because they know that they think that they own us from USA Gymnastics and I think sometimes Steve promises-

No he definitely did. We ran into problems in 2012 where a company kept approaching me and saying can you sign off on this and I said oh just go through Aly’s manager and they said that we don’t have to go through Aly’s manager we have the rights to Aly’s name and likeness.

Oh what?

And I’m like you don’t and it was like this whole-

they kicked my family out of their house it was at the Olympics and that it was a sponsor-

and it was very shady and what happened was I think some of the girls like were like oh okay I’ll sign it. Some were represented and some weren’t. But they just didn’t think to say they well I should check because that doesn’t feel right.

Yeah. A lot of the contracts they asked us to sign were not right. And I just think that it’s really unfair that a lot of these girls maybe don’t have access to an agent or a lawyer. And I think that USA Gymnastics needs to be more transparent with what they’re asking us to sign because there’s a lot of things that they had asked me to sign. That is just not right.

But also another parent where I was like I’m not going to sign that it has to go through her agent and the other parent said to me, “Oh this company is being really nice like we’re getting they’re feeding us right now I think we should just sign. You know what I mean? Like people don’t know. You know what I mean?

You feel pressure.

Like you don’t realize you’re signing away more than you think you know what I mean? So it’s not like their asking yo So it’s not like they’re asking you did you sign this (can’t make out) Something to help raise funds for cancer like they’re asking you to sign it to promote their product.

Well also here’s another example of Steve Penny and you know just this isn’t just Steve Penny. It’s all the people that work there. But give me an example like he was just so ridiculous where you know he was going with my agent and with the tour agreement. And I remember he was texting me randomly texting me like I need you to sign your tour agreement and I would like but it’s just so unprofessional because I’m like training for the Olympics it’s very you know it’s coming up quick and so I remember I was texting him and I said because Larry was gone at this point they had allowed him to resign and they still hadn’t said anything to anyone. And I remember I said to him I said I’m really nervous to use the volunteers that you have at Nationals because it might have been at Olympic Trials. I was asking you I think about. That one of the competitions I think it was that Olympic Trials I said I’m really nervous to use the volunteers. I have someone from my sports athletic trainer that I would really like to have credentials for the floor to be able to work on the after practice because I feel really comfortable with him and I really trust him and so Steve Penny texted back and he just goes I need you to sign your tour agreement and just didn’t even like addressed the fact that I was like and I was so nervous to text him which makes me sad now because obviously he’s wrong I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable saying I’m nervous about being molested by another one of your staff members so can you please let me bring someone I feel comfortable with-

And I don’t even know if they background check all those volunteers. Same thing with the ones on tour. Like I asked someone from the 2012 tour who was sort of responsible for like at each city getting someone and I go who background checks them? She goes, I don’t know I kind of assume the place that we’re getting them from they’ve already been background checked but yeah you’re right

Well USAG is just they they didn’t. I mean Larry didn’t even medical license in Texas he didn’t even have. What’s it called like certifications to do pelvic floor. Yeah. Which he wasn’t doing but I mean it’s just yeah you’re right. He was not doing that but that’s what I mean he acted like you know sometimes people were saying he was doing that but he didn’t even have the certification to do that.

It was like drilled in. Like I remember being at a parents’ meeting where Kathy Kelly was like your daughters are just so lucky and it was just the propaganda.

A lot of people have criticized you for a perception that you haven’t offered solutions that you want change but you’re not offering solutions so and you offer a lot already today. But can you give me three to five solutions and things that USA Gymnastics should be doing right now.

I would say the first is to be transparent and actions speak louder than words so release all your documents and data explain to us what happened who knew what when. Make the investigation bigger than just Larry Nassar because there’s so much that has gone on that’s not OK.

So you’re talking about financial data, conflicts of interest, Ted Stevens Act violations, representation conflicts

The victim shaming being on top of. If you are a coach and you’re a victim shaming or you’re a judge victim shaming giving them education because I’m a big believer and just if someone victim shames someone is really unkind to them. I don’t think you should be like you know shut out. I think it’s an opportunity for us to educate people so getting everyone educated as well. You know like in less than five months of working with Darkness to Light I’ve trained more people than USA Gymnastics did in six years. So it’s like it’s just crazy like they have such a bigger like access to getting people to be trained I can just do it through social media trying to figure out if I know any teachers or principals of schools or coaches. But it’s I’m doing the best that I can but as an organization it would be so easy for them to mandate it and also to make sure that Safe Sport is completely separate. But I really do think that Kerry Perry needs to sit down and listen to the survivors because she always says I listen and I hear you but she doesn’t. And also I would really like to see her to stop lying because she lies a lot. And I hope that people can see through that because you know actions speak louder than words and by her just saying I care doesn’t actually mean that she cares you have to prove that you really care. And you know I want to believe that it is the new USA Gymnastics just as much as everyone else does. But you can’t say that if you’re not really being transparent you’re not even trying to get people like I started working with Darkness to Light because they approached us and they said we’ve been working with USA Gymnastics for six years over those six years all they’ve cared about is the press release they go we’ve been trying to reach out to them since all this has been public they could not reach Kerry Perry she would not get back to them. And so that speaks louder than words and I know it’s just there’s just so many things that need to change. But I really think the first and foremost thing we need to understand what happened and that all the people that knew about it are gone and also fixing the policies if you see someone abusing someone and you give them a verbal warning. Anyone that followed that policy or helped create it. I mean it’s really bad. I just don’t understand how you can sleep at night if you know that someone is being abused and you don’t do anything about it. That’s a very big issue. I mean I also I don’t trust Safe Sport. I just think that there needs to be more repercussions of if you are if you know something is going on. You don’t do anything. That’s a big issue. I just think it should be like you need to go to the authorities and you need to do you need to not stop until you get the answers. I know it’s easier said than done because the FBI let us down so did a lot of other authorities you know in 1997 was the first reported abuse. And so sometimes it’s just people don’t care. And I don’t know it’s I wish we lived in a world where everyone care but the gym owners also like I have so many parents approaching me and being like we want to help but our gyms have done nothing there and across the country like I’m amazed at like there hasn’t been any urgency from a lot of these gym owners. I would think if I was a gym owner you’d be like What can I do to help this. I want to start the conversation. There should be posters up of like if something doesn’t feel right it’s not right. I mean I met this girl she e-mails and she emailed my manager and I ended up getting to meet her and she said that. Her, Her owner of her gym who she was very close but she found out that he had been videotaping all of them in the bathroom and in the locker room so you know it was child pornography so she said her and all the other girls had to go into the police station identify their photos and all this stuff and she just said it. She was like we don’t know what to do. Nobody’s helping us and I was just like this is USA Gymnastics gym. I think she told me like 20 or 30 years ago they were investigated by but she didn’t know a lot about it. But it’s like it’s just there are like Larry Nassar is not the only predator in gymnastics and we need to it’s not fun to talk about. It’s not easy. I don’t enjoy like looking at things sometimes so negatively and being like you know this is suspicious. I don’t wanna be like that. But you have to be like that. We live in a world where it’s hard for me to find women that have not been assaulted sexually abused at some point in their life and that’s not OK and that’s the same thing there’s a lot I’m amazed by how many men and boys confide in me that they’ve been abused as well and so it’s just you know there it happens to so many people that we need to stop being in denial as a society and actually address the problem. And if it starts at like the low levels of like we need to educate children and I think a lot of sometimes people are afraid to do that. But I mean I’ll give you an example like there was a family friend that I have and she’s 4 years old and she said to me she said I saw you on TV talking about that bad man and her mom showed her the video of me speaking in court which I thought was really cool that she showed her 4 year old that. And she said What happened then I remember I looked at her mom just for permission to share that with her like a little bit and I was also trying to like struggling of how do you talk to a 4 year old and her mom just said oh you know he touched her private parts and that’s not allowed.` And she said OK but where. And so like I looked at her mom again and it was like sort of like I was nervous but I was also like this is really important and really needed. And so I was like this moment where like her mom was talking to her about all this stuff and it was just. And then the four year old said something that really struck with me and she said she goes OK yes. So she says I know that no one’s allowed to touch my private parts unless somebody is helping me wipe. And I thought that was so like. That was like something that was like a light bulb moment where I was like that is such a good way to say that to a kid and again I’m not an expert so you know if you don’t agree with me you don’t have to do that I’m just speaking from my experience. But I just thought that that was such a. I just thought that was really cool and I loved how her mom was just so open about talking about it with her and the four year old was just so like she was really interested in asking me about it and of course she doesn’t understand it but she’s still aware of it.

So Lynn had to leave at this point but she wanted to make a final point about USA Gymnastics before she did.

just to answer your question about what USAG should be doing is that you know my thing is you have two coaches that seem to have been promoted to like taking the lead on different aspects of USA Gymnastics and they’ve taken to social media to sort of like

like our Facebook page many times

Yeah that is sort of like attack the victims and say they’re not saying the whole truth. Not that they’re saying they’re lying about Larry but you know of some of them were very vocal supporting Larry but they’re just saying your exaggerating. So to me and I think one of them was on the board so if they’re banned(?) from the board why are they now in charge of this? so you know for young gymnasts who are following maybe your Facebook page and they see people saying come on ladies tell the truth you’re lying than what example does that set to the young girls?

Also here is another thing when Rhonda was allowed to resign. I think this is also the thing sometimes with our generation as you know people post on social media sometimes without knowing the whole side of the story and I think it’s important for people to realize there’s always two sides to every story. And I think I am I got a lot of calls from my teammates and national team members that were really upset about how many people were complaining that Rhonda had to resign. And you know I fully understand that a lot of people had a different experience with Rhonda. But what I would like to ask all the people that posted saying that they really wanted Rhonda back is to speak to the 50 to 100 people that were molested after Rhonda didn’t handle it the right way. And Larry worked at John Geddert’s gym for a long time after Rhonda Faehn and Steve Penny knew about the abuse and he continued to abuse girls there. And so I think it’s just important for everyone to remember that we’re all in this together and if you don’t agree with someone resigning you know just ask questions and you know I am I also am like I’m happy to answer questions. It’s all so hard. I’ve said in so many interviews sharing my story about Rhonda. And it wasn’t covered. I don’t know why the media didn’t cover anything that I had said about Rhonda. But I’ve been saying it for a long time. So it’s interesting sometimes when I call people out in interviews it’s not covered. So I’m not really sure why. I say you know I totally understand and respect that everyone has different experiences with people and I think that’s also just another point of educating everyone to understand like we have to be like. I would love to hear their side of the story too if you’ve had a good experience with someone. I’d be happy to hear it. But you also have to be sensitive and empathetic to the 50 to 100 girls that were abused because nothing was done. And I think when you’re talking about you know sexual abuse it’s not something that you can just say Oh I learned my lesson and I’m doing the right thing now. I mean that’s a really fifty to a hundred girls lives are never going to be the same and it is it’s just there is a lot that is wrong with what happened and a lot that’s wrong with the way that handle that. So if there’s a new USA Gymnastics that people that knew about it have to be gone. And you know what that being said like I’m not I know. That there was a lot of coaches that were saying you know Rhonda needs to be back in this and it’s like I just wish that they had asked us or spoken to those 50 to 100 girls because that should have never ever happened. It should have that from the moment that anyone knew about Larry that should have been handled a very long time ago.

Just a note here. One of the things we talked about during this day was how many interviews Aly has done and how she often feels like she’s really worried about how things are perceived versus how she means things. So after we were finished she was really worried that she didn’t want anybody to think that she was criticizing or upset with the gymnasts who posted on social media that they wanted Rhonda to stay. She’s just presenting a different side of this. And she’s not upset with any of the gymnasts. And then we got back into more of Aly’s solutions.

Being transparent too like there some of my teammates that were still reaching out to Larry at Olympic Trials they didn’t know it was like over a year after I reported my abuse. I didn’t know this either I didn’t know till way after till he was already in jail. But some of my teammates were reaching out to Larry for advice and so USA Gymnastics didn’t even tell anyone what was going on and you. It was just I want the best for the sport. And I lived through it and I know a lot of the other girls have lived through through it and we just want change. So we care so much about it and we know that you look at how successful we were. There’s a better way to do it. You can still win gold medals you know being fed the right way having a sports psychologist not training as much not being afraid not being abused. There’s a better way to do things and we would love to help out whenever they’re ready to talk to us.

And you still talk to people in the program I mean you hung out with Simone last night. It’s not like you’re just talking to people that aren’t in the elite system anymore.

Oh yeah of course yeah. And you know like I said I don’t know all of the girls I have met some of them and I’ve told the national team members like give my number to all the girls and some of them have reached out. I don’t want any of them to be nervous to reach out to me. But I you know text some of them and try to check in and I can tell though. That. You know I think that some of the coaches are also kind of making us out to be the bad guys which really breaks my heart really breaks my heart and I really. It makes me really sad because I want everyone to have a good experience in the gymnastic world and I want everyone to just be happy. Like I just literally like everyone in the world was just really happy and felt more love for theirselves and one another. You know we just live in such a better place. And so I just want everyone to be happy I want everyone to have a good experience it just makes me sad that some coaches don’t understand that we’re speaking out because we want change and you know USA Gymnastics is just taking so long to make any change that like it they just did this from if they handled it the right way from the very beginning. You know then there would already be the new USA Gymnastics. I just want people to realize that I care a lot and I’m human. And I think it is hard because sometimes you feel like you know. I mean not everyone’s going to understand what you’re saying but you know just remember there is a reason why everyone is speaking up and it’s because we care because we love this sport. And I’m going to support the gymnasts because I love gymnastics so much and I want the girls to do you know I want the gymnastics team to be even better than my team was and I really really mean that from the bottom of my heart. But you know it does it it like it honestly like hurts me when I see people say you know it’s enough with the speaking up. It’s you know because you know there’s so many people in the world we don’t we may never even know how many people are suffering with this so it is something that needs to be talked about a lot. I know it’s uncomfortable to hear I know it’s not fun to talk about but it is going to help the next generation and that’s what we have to do. And the current generation too of course you know that we have to be whether or not and you can relate to someone else’s experience it’s important to be kind to each other and to be supportive. And I would love to see that more for the gymnastics world you know because it’s you know I just think that you know if everyone can be kinder and more supportive and for the coaches that are negatively speaking out then talk to me if you want to talk about it your experience is different than mine than let’s talk about it. But you have to be understanding of different experiences the coach’s experience is obviously very different and you know it’s like I said if you’re at the most magical place on the planet if you’re being abused there you’re not going to think it’s the most magical place on the planet. So it’s just about understanding where other people are coming from. And you know there’s always two sides to every story so I would say before you come to a conclusion about how you view someone else maybe talk to that person. You know I would have liked to see more people instead of taking Rhonda’s side to really talk to the other people that dealt with you know had a negative experience with her. You know and you know you have to think about those 50 to 100 girls that were abused after nothing happened and that’s just- What I don’t understand. I don’t think that someone that should be working with children you know and I don’t know if everyone knows the whole story. It’s something that’s hard for me because I do. You know when I do interviews the whole I don’t have control over what is said. And so it’s important. You know to talk about as much as I can. I don’t have control. Sometimes things are misquoted or not but I do the best that I can. But I’m also only human so you know I’m also just speaking from my experience and sometimes I think people you know sometimes you see and I’m doing I’m haven’t been on social media as much because it is frustrating it’s hard you know sometimes I see people just like well why don’t you just come up with a solution then and I’m like well you have to remember I’m 24 years old. I’ve done gymnastics my whole entire life. I’m not an expert on this. We would have to like someone needs to be hired to come in and set up a whole new system. I would love to help them be involved but I’m not nowhere near like I don’t I wouldn’t even like know where to start I can give ideas and I’d love to put in my input and I can say that I think USA Gymnastics needs to be more transparent release all their documents tell us what happened. Tell us why it was like this fix the policies but also policies aren’t enough. Making sure that every single gym has programs implemented to make this change. But I just want people to understand you know before you judge someone else for the way they speak up you know for anyone that comes forward just remember that everyone copes differently and like just it’s kind of like you know someone once said why do we leave it to the survivors to try to come up with solutions or to speak out. And you don’t have to be a survivor to be supportive and to be kind and to care. But you know also for people to remember it like if the survivors the survivors don’t need to have the full on solution like we we we hire the experts to come in to do that we can offer our opinions and help in it. And it’s all a learning journey for all of us. You know I’m still learning so much more but I’m not hu-. I mean I’m not perfect. I’m human. I am human. But. Yeah I think it’s just remembering to be. I think the word empathy is so important. Like if you see someone’s story come out and you hear somebody make a negative comment about them be kind to that person even if you don’t know them but just educate them. You know if you see someone victim shaming someone else it doesn’t mean you have to be nasty back to them it’s just about educating them and saying you don’t know what their experience was. We have to change as a society where it’s not people’s first reaction to shame and say someone’s lying you know the abuser should be shamed not the survivors. And so I think just kind of taking a step back and being really supportive of like we all want to be on the same page with everyone we want the gymnastics world to be good like I never thought I’d be in a position where I am going to the gymnastics meet tonight and I’m probably going to be ignored by most of the people there. You know that’s not something that’s fun for me and it’s really sad because I know that this is the right thing to speak up and if not everyone gets it hopefully they get it one day but it’s really it’s sad and that’s what I try to tell the other gymnasts that You know tell me I’m so nervous I feel like they hate me. I feel like some of the other girls are mad at me and I just say you’re doing the right thing. You know that’s what it just doing the right thing is speaking up even if it’s hard. Even if you know not everyone’s going to agree with you. But it’s about doing the right thing. And for all the fans that have been supportive you know thank you so much because it’s the more people that we have supporting the more that we can help make change you know the change can start with each and every single person whether you’re you know at a dinner and you hear someone make a nasty comment about a survivor you know that’s your opportunity to say that’s not OK and to educate them on why what they’re saying is wrong but it’s just yeah I don’t know. It really boggles my mind that it’s 2018 and we still have to tell people it doesn’t matter what a woman’s wearing it never makes it ok. Abuse isn’t ok. If someone’s allowed to thrive for 20 years we need to fix the system and change it.

Thanks so much to Aly and Lynn. Can’t wait to see what comes of this episode. Thanks also to our audio editors and Spencer who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get this all ready in a week. And of course to club gym members who make what we do possible at all. Check out all the perks you can get from filling your emotional chalk bucket for only two dollars a month at GymCastic.com under the support us tab. We are on vacation next week but Spencer’s blogcast for you so don’t listen with your mouth full. You have been warned. Until then. Remember.

You are beautiful you are lovely. Go out there and enjoy this.

Thanks for listening. See you guys in two weeks.

Well that’s why I wanted to do the podcast because I was like everyone’s been so supportive. It’s awesome.

So it’s just so different doing an interview with you because you know so much more.

So I mean you know obviously watching Simone she’s just I don’t know how she does it. I really don’t. I mean I even asked her last night I’m like Is it even hard for you. And she’s like you know sometimes. But it’s just you know I’m like gosh you know I was watching her floor routine with her last night and I was just like it just doesn’t even look hard for you like because I remember when I came back when I would finish my floor routine I mean my mouth was so dry I was so exhausted like my my body everything was burning. By the time you even get to like your second tumbling pass I mean it’s so hard. You know hopefully people watching couldn’t tell how exhausting it is but it just it just like she’s just like super human I don’t know how she does it. Yeah it’s just. And she came back so fast too. You know I think she’s been back she told me for nine months. I just I mean that’s not normal. But I Really I don’t know how she does it. I really don’t. But it’s kind of it’s it’s funny because you know when I first came back to gymnastics and I started competing with her around like 2015 we would joke about how we really wanted to be her on floor and all this stuff and it was very playful but then I just got to the point where I was really content with being second because I just it’s just like she’s just so talented it’s just she’s I didn’t even think of it as competing with her. It was just really interesting because being with Mihai obviously he’s so competitive and we were both trying to upgrade and all the stuff and then finally one day we were just like Mihai was like you just have to compete with yourself and he’s like you just have to you know the girls and I were joking and our coaches that second place is like first place because she’s just so good. But I have to say it really helped me have that like mentality in my head because it helped me take the pressure off because for some reason for me just trying to win all the time it took out the fun in it for me personally I was just putting too much pressure on myself. And it really helped me just having that mentality of just just doing the best that I could do. But I mean she’s just I just didn’t even think of it as competing against her. I honestly just don’t know how she does it. She sent me a video of her. Doing a double layout like very shortly after she started training again. And I was just I remember I sent it to Mihai and Silvia and I was like I just don’t I don’t get it. And they were just like amazed by it because it took me so long to come back. It’s just I did so much conditioning and I just I I don’t even know how she does and it’s crazy.

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