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Michigan State Suspends Gymnastics Coach Accused of Ignoring Abuse Claim

The school didn't say why it took action against Kathie Klages or whether it's related to the sex-abuse scandal.
Image: A general view of the exterior of Spartan Stadium on Nov. 21, 2009 in East Lansing, Michigan.
Michigan State University's Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.Mark Cunningham / Getty Images

Michigan State University, which has been rocked by allegations that one of its doctors sexually abused athletes, suspended its longtime gymnastics coach on Monday.

The school gave no explanation for the disciplinary action it took against Kathie Klages, who has winning records in 23 of her 26 seasons as head coach, nor did it say whether the action was connected to the scandal stemming from disgraced MSU doctor Larry Nassar, who has treated many of America's top gymnasts.

Two weeks ago, Klages was named in court papers filed by a former gymnast who claimed that Nassar repeatedly molested her from 1997 to 1999 during invasive treatments while she was training in an MSU youth sports program.

The plaintiff, who is using a Jane Doe pseudonym, alleged that she went to Klages with her concerns about Nassar's treatments and was told that she must be "misunderstanding" his procedures.

"Klages explained that she had known Nassar for years and could not imagine him doing anything questionable," the complaint says.

"Klages explained that she [Klages] could file something, but that it would have serious consequences for Plaintiff and for Nassar. This conversation left Plaintiff feeling intimidated, embarrassed, and scared, and caused Plaintiff to believe that nothing illegal or tortious was happening."

In a new round of court papers filed Tuesday, another former gymnast alleged that Klages asked her around the same time if Nassar was performing vaginal procedures on her. When the teenager said he was, Klages allegedly told her there was "no reason to bring up Nassar's conduct."

Klages referred questions to her attorney, Shirlee Bobryk, who did not return calls.

Michigan State, which is leading the police investigation of Nassar, has said the university didn't learn of allegations against Nassar until 2014. At that time, however, no charges were brought, and Nassar was allowed to keep practicing as long as he used gloves and a chaperone for pelvic procedures.

He was fired in the fall for allegedly violating those rules after the first two accusers came forward. He had previously been fired as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport, in response to "athlete concerns."

Since the scandal erupted, Nassar has been accused of molesting more than 60 former patients under the guise of pelvic procedures, and he has also been hit with federal child pornography charges and state charges that he abused a family friend starting when she was 6 years old.

He denies the allegations, and his lawyers have said any procedures he performed were medically appropriate.

Related: Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar Hit With Child Porn Cover-Up Charge

Michigan State is also dealing with a second sexual assault investigation. Last week, it suspended three football players and booted them from campus housing and suspended a football program staffer as part of that probe.