State committee dismisses complaints against MSU athletic trainers

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — A state regulatory committee charged with overseeing athletic trainer licensing dismissed complaints Thursday against two Michigan State University athletic trainers who were accused of being dishonest with investigators regarding their knowledge of complaints against serial molester Larry Nassar. 

The four-member Athletic Trainer Disciplinary Subcommittee voted unanimously to accept the December recommendation of an administrative law judge who found athletics trainers Destiny Teachnor-Hauk and Lianna Hadden did not lack good moral character, as had been alleged. The judge had recommended the dismissal of the complaints.

Attorney General Dana Nessel's office did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. 

Michigan State University declined comment. 

Teachnor-Hauk attended the meeting, but Hadden was unable to make the hearing.

Their lawyers, Tim Dardas and Tom Hackney, said the women were "thrilled" with Thursday's decision. Dardas and Hackney were hired by MSU to represent the athletic trainers, who are still employed at the university, in the licensing proceedings. 

"These are two women who are outstanding and dedicated athletic trainers, who have been serving MSU athletes for decades and doing so at the highest caliber," Hackney said. 

Hackney said both were "devastated" in 2016 when they learned of the allegations against Nassar and the impact it had on athletes they served.

"They absolutely told the truth to investigators during the (2018) meeting," he said. "They’ve told the truth to anyone who ever asked them about these allegations.”

John Manly — a lawyer for Tiffany Thomas Lopez, who said she reported Nassar to Teachnor-Hauk and Hadden in 2000 — said the decision sends a discouraging message to victims of sexual abuse. 

"I’m just speechless," said Manly, who represents about 200 Nassar survivors. "One of the lynchpins of liability at Michigan State – the reason they paid half a billion dollars – is because Nassar was reported to these athletic trainers. And they did nothing.”

Manly questioned why a board of the athletic trainers' peers were tasked with making the decision about their conduct. 

"The message is you can fail to report the most prolific pedophile in the history of the United States and you’ll keep your job and you’ll keep your license," Manly said. "That’s messed up.”

Nessel and Michigan's Licensing and Regulatory Affairs served administrative complaints to MSU in 2019 regarding athletic trainers Teachnor-Hauk and Hadden, alleging they lied to investigators about what they knew about the sexual abuse of students by Nassar. 

The complaints were reviewed by an administrative law judge, who forwarded his recommendations to the disciplinary subcommittee of the Michigan Board of Athletic Trainers. The board's disciplinary subcommittee was tasked with determining whether to sanction the trainers. 

Hadden and Teachnor-Hauk were among 14 Michigan State employees who are alleged to have been alerted about Nassar's years before he was charged with sexual assault. 

Thomas Lopez, a former MSU softball player, has said she told Hadden of Nassar's treatment at a softball tournament in 2000 and Hadden allegedly told her to tell Teachnor-Hauk. Thomas Lopez said she talked to Teachnor-Hauk after the tournament. 

“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?”

Former MSU volleyball player Jennifer Rood Bedford said during Nassar's January 2018 sentencing that she told Hadden that Nassar made her uncomfortable. 

In a 2014 Title IX investigation interview, Teachnor-Hauk told investigators she never received a complaint about Nassar in 17 years. She told police the same in 2017.

In the 2019 Licensing and Regulatory Affairs report, investigators said both licensees denied any student told them of concerns regarding Nassar.