Debbie van Horn: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Debbie Van Horn is the former medical director for USA gymnastics who worked with disgraced gymnastics team doctor Larry Nasser at an Olympics training facility in Texas. On Friday, Nasser was charged with six additional counts of sexual assault while Van Horn was charged with one count of sexual assault. Authorities did not release details about the charge against Van Horn, but the Washington Post reports that she is being charged for an assault Nassar allegedly committed while she was in the room. The owners of the training ranch, Bela and Martha Karolyi, were not charged with involvement in the case.

Nasser has been accused of molesting at least 150 young women over the past 20 years, all under the guise of carrying out physical therapy. His victims used to call him the “crotch doc”; the judge who sentenced him said he was “a monster” that is “going to wither.”
He had already been sentenced to serve up to 175 years in prison. Today’s charges are connected to six women who trained at the ranch in the 2000s.

Here’s what you need to know.


1. Van Horn Was Allegedly in the Room When Nasser Abused His Patients

During her moving testimony in Nasser’s trial in January, Mattie Larson, the US gymnasitcs champion, called Nassar a “monster” and added, “I can’t even put into words how much I f***ing hate you.”

But Larson also talked about Debbie Van Horn’s role in the abuse. She said that Van Horn “would be in the room many of the times Larry abused me.”
aAn anonymous victim, known only as “Victim 178,” also talked about Van Horn when she testified in court. She said that Van Horn would turn a blind eye to what was happening while Nassar was treating them. At times, Van Horn remained in the room. At other times, she left the room, seemingly to avoid seeing what was going on.

Aly Raisman, a two-time USA Olympic gymnast, told 60 minutes last year that the abuse is part of a larger problem with the culture inside of USA Gymnastics. “Why are we looking at why didn’t the girls speak up?” Raisman said. “Why not look at what about the culture? What did USA Gymnastics do, and Larry Nassar do, to manipulate these girls so much that they are so afraid to speak up?”


2. A USA Gymnastics Told Girls to Seek Out Either Larry Nasser or Debbie Van Horn When They Had “A Problem” at Night.

Memo from USA Gymnastics

Memo from USA Gymnastics

Hundreds of girls have come forward and said that Nasser abused them under the guise of providing medical treatment. An internal memo circulated among gymnasts who were training at the ranch shows that the USA Gymnastics federation was actively encouraging young gymnasts to turn to Dr. Nasser, instead of to their personal coach.

The memo reads, “If you or anyone in your room has a problem at night (or anytime) please call Dr. Larry Nassar, Debbie Van Horn, or a USA Gymnastics staff person. Please do not call your personal coach.”


3. Van Horn Left USA Gymnastics After Nassar’s Trial in January

In January, USA Gymnastics announced that Debbie Van Horn was no longer working with them. According to an email obtained by USA Today, Van Horn stopped working for the organization on January 22, 2018. USA Gymnastics did not respond to questions about why Van Horn was leaving her job.

The email was written by Mark McCreary, the federation’s cheif administrative officer,and the subject line was “Notice.” The email read, “Effective, January 22, 2018, Debbie Van Horn is no longer employed with USA Gymnastics,” McCreary wrote in the email. “We wish her well in her new endeavors. In the interim, Jamie Broz will be taking on those duties.”


4. Athletes Said the Karolyi Ranch was the Perfect Environment For Abusers to Thrive

Mattie Larson, the 2010 US National champion in the floor exercise, sid that Nasser first started abusing her when she was just 14 years old. Larson burst out crying on the stand, as she described the abuse that she experienced. But Larson also painted a chilling picture of the Olympic training facility.

She called the Karolyi ranch “the perfect enviroment for abusers and molesters to thrive,” since it was remote and extremely isolated. There was no cell phone access, and gymnasts were encouraged to ignore their own needs and feelings in order to dedicate themselves completely to their training. Larson said that the trainers pushed her and other athletes to train and compete even while they were injured. The trainers pushed the gymnasts to work for 6 hour stretches without food or water, and constantly monitored their weight. While she was at the ranch, Larson developed an eating disorder and suffered panic attacks. She even tried to give herself a concussion by banging her head against the bathtub so that she wouldn’t have to go to the ranch on year.

Larson said that the Karolyis contributed to the toxic atmosphere. She testified that Martha Karolyi also “shunned” her when she made a few mistakes during the 2010 World Championships. Larson said, “I have never felt so small and disposable in all my life.”

Those who watched the case say there is a long list of people who enabled Nasser to carry out abuse — either by creating an environment full of fear and toxicity, or by turning a blind eye to the abuse that was going on right in front of them.


5. Lawyers Representing Nassar’s Victims Say More of His Enablers Should Face Trial

John Manly, who represents many of Nasser’s victims, said he was angry that more charges have been filed against Nasser instead of against the Karolyis, who apparently turned a blind eye to what was going on at their ranch. “Charging Larry Nassar with more crimes makes about as much sense as digging up Lee Harvey Oswald and charging him with JFK’s murder,” said Manly.

No USA Gymnastics officials are being charged in the case either, although there are signs that some officials knew that the abuse was taking place and failed to report it. Failing to report abuse is a misdemeanor, and the statute of limitations for misdemeanors is two years in Texas. The most recent abuse case took place in 2015. Stephanie Stroud, an assistant District Attorney for Walker County, Texas, said that charges would have been filed against some USA Gymnastics officials if the case had been brought earlier.

Manly called the investigation a “whitewash” and said that the Walker County Sheriff’s Department, the Texas Rangers, and the Walker Country District Attorney were protecting the Karolyis. He said, “It boggles the mind that we have Olympians that were abused hundreds of times there…and they can’t find one criminal charge against anybody who ran the place.”

Manly tweeted today, “Newsflash to Walker County DC Martha Karolyi was in charge of the US team. She was the national Team Coordinator. All medical staff reported to her per USAG guidelines.

Source: Heavy Sports