State accuses 2 MSU trainers of lying about Nassar

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News
In 2000, Tiffany Thomas Lopez, a Spartan softball player, says she told two MSU athletic trainers, Lianna Hadden and Destiny Teachnor-Hauk, that Nassar digitally penetrated her during treatment for lower back pain.

Two more staff members at Michigan State University are facing possible repercussions for their role in the scandal involving serial pedophile Larry Nassar.

Michigan's Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the Michigan Attorney General are serving administrative complaints to Michigan State University athletic trainers Destiny Teachnor-Hauk and Lianna Hadden, alleging they lied to investigators about what they knew about the sexual abuse of students by Nassar.

The complaints, announced Wednesday, are being forwarded to the disciplinary subcommittee of the Michigan Board of Athletic Trainers for determination of whether to impose a sanction that could include a fine, license suspension or revocation, or probation with terms or a limitation on the licensee.

"The findings of our investigation are serious in nature and demonstrate unethical conduct for their profession,” LARA Director Orlene Hawks said in a statement. “We appreciate Attorney General (Dana) Nessel’s collaboration with LARA during the course of these thorough investigations which resulted in the administrative complaints.”

Tiffany Thomas Lopez, who said she told Hadden and Teachnor-Hauk about Nassar almost 20 years ago, said she was overwhelmed but grateful.

“I am finally being heard," said Thomas Lopez, 38, of San Gabriel Valley, California. "My story is being told … People are listening and change is being made. All of that is really beautiful. Really, really beautiful. Unfortunately, people will have to suffer but accountability comes first.”

More than a year ago, The Detroit News reported that Hadden and Teachnor-Hauk were among 14 Michigan State representatives who were alerted about the behavior of Nassar — who sexually assaulted young women under the guise of medical treatment and is now incarcerated — long before he was brought to justice.

Thomas Lopez said she was in the hotel room of Hadden, her team trainer in 2000, who was working with her at a softball tournament because she was in so much pain. Thomas Lopez showed Hadden what Nassar would do to her to relieve her pain.

“She gasped,” said Thomas Lopez. “She said, ‘No way, that’s not right.’”

At the time, Hadden did not comment.

Thomas Lopez said Hadden told her she needed to tell Teachnor-Hauk.

Thomas Lopez recalls talking to Teachnor-Hauk after the tournament while sitting on the bleachers in MSU’s Jenison Field House.

“I was told if I felt extremely uncomfortable then of course we could pursue something but I was assured this was actual medical treatment,” said Thomas Lopez. “If I decided to pursue something, it was going to cast a burden over my family. She said it was going cause a lot of heartache, it was going to cause a lot of trauma and why would I want drag him through this?”

During Nassar’s sentencing in Ingham County Circuit Court in January 2018, a second woman —  former MSU volleyball player Jennifer Rood Bedford — testified that about two years after Thomas Lopez, she told Hadden that Nassar had made her uncomfortable.

“I was so scared of revealing what I thought were shameful details that I didn’t give her much to go on,” Rood Bedford said. “In the end, she wanted me to understand that filing a report, it would involve an investigation, making an accusation against Nassar and statement that I felt that what Nassar did was unprofessional or criminally wrong.”

More than a decade after Thomas Lopez said she told Teachnor-Hauk about Nassar, Teachnor-Hauk was interviewed during a Title IX investigation into Nassar’s conduct headed by Kristine Moore, then assistant director of MSU's Institutional Equity Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives.

“Ms. Teachnor-Hauk states that she has never had a complaint about Dr. Nassar in 17 years and has no concern about him crossing the line between medically appropriate and inappropriate,” the report says.

Three years later, according to a March 2017 police report, Teachnor-Hauk told two MSU police officers and an FBI agent she “never had an athlete tell her that Nassar made them uncomfortable.”

Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault, said Wednesday she was “very grateful for this step,” referring to the administrative complaints announced Wednesday.

“We have been saying for more than two years that these trainers mishandled and lied about Larry's abuse, at a time when the victims most needed the truth,” Denhollander said. “MSU has refused to listen. This is precisely why MSU must commission an independent investigation with a firm survivors trust. We need the truth — the community and taxpayers deserve the truth — and if MSU wants to know what problems need to be fixed, they need the truth, too.”

California-based attorney John Manly, who represents Thomas Lopez, could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday, but he tweeted about her.

"She spoke up early and used her voice in the face of all the power (and) might MSU could muster against her," Manly wrote. "Despite her MSU tormentors, she persisted. Today she is vindicated and her path to justice continues."

Asked Wednesday if Hadden and Teachnor-Hauk are still employees of Michigan State, spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said: "As of this morning, they are both still employed at the university."

She pointed a statement issued by the university.

"We were made aware today of the administrative complaint filed by the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs regarding two trainers at Michigan State University," it said. "We are reviewing the findings and taking the complaint seriously."   

Both administrative complaints indicate that students informed Teachnor-Hauk and Hadden about the discomfort they felt during Nassar’s treatments and were reviewed by Attorney General special agents on June 11, 2018.

Both licensees denied that any student had ever advised them of concerns with Nassar or his treatment, according to LARA.

”We’ve made it clear before and we’re making it clear again today: lying to law enforcement officers engaged in an investigation is unacceptable,” Nessel said. “Teachnor-Hauk’s and Hadden’s unethical conduct and lack of good moral character deserves serious review by their licensing board.”

Hadden and Teachnor Hauk bring to five the number of MSU representatives facing potential consequences over their knowledge about Nassar, who sexually abused young women for decades before charges were brought against him starting in 2016.

Nassar admitted in 2017 that his treatments on young women were for his own sexual gratification. He also pleaded guilty to possessing 37,000 images of child pornography.

Last year, the Michigan Attorney General brought criminal charges in connection with the Nassar scandal against former MSU President Lou Anna Simon, former head gymnastics coach Kathie Klages and former College of Osteopathic Medicine dean William Strampel.